A day after New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees pulled himself at halftime of Sunday's 27-13 victory over San Francisco due to a rib injury, Coach Sean Payton said he would wait until later in the week to provide any updates on the injury situation.
"I'll make sure on Wednesday we kind of list his practice status and everything else," Payton said. The Saints, 7-2 and winners of six consecutive games, will play host to division rival Atlanta (3-6) on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Payton said no advantage would be gained by announcing early in the week if the 20-year veteran could play or if Jameis Winston, who replaced Brees in the second half, or Taysom Hill, who routinely takes several snaps at the position during games, would be starting.
Brees, who missed five games last season with a torn ligament in his right thumb, finished out the first half Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to running back Alvin Kamara with 1:15 left in the second quarter. But the drive was a difficult one for him physically, he admitted. He was scheduled to have an MRI and X-rays done Monday.
Possibly, the decisive blow that eventually led to Brees' departure came with 8:42 left in the first half.
On second-and-10 from the San Francisco 21-yard line, Niners defensive lineman Kentavius Street sacked Brees for an 8-yard loss. But the 287-pounder drove Brees into the turf and was penalized for roughing the passer; Brees, clearly in discomfort, managed to get to his feet and finish out the drive, which culminated in a 2-yard touchdown run by Kamara.
Brees said the injury was a "cumulative thing, probably not just one (rib)."
He returned for the next drive to direct the two-minute offense and led the Saints on a six-play, 57-yard drive – including five completions – that culminated in the touchdown pass to Kamara.
"I actually felt terrible before the two-minute drive, but I had to find a way," Brees said.
When the teams returned to open the second half, with New Orleans set to receive the kickoff, Brees informed Payton that it would be prudent for Winston to go in at quarterback.
"I was not going to be able to be effective," Brees said after the game. "It had nothing to do with pain. It was definitely just what my body was going to be able to do or not be able to do."
He completed eight of 13 passes for 76 yards before he was forced to the sideline.
"You always worry about halftime because you sit for so long," he said. "And so, when I came out the second half and started throwing the ball, it became really apparent that I wasn't going to be effective."
Winston, who completed six of 10 passes for 63 yards, said he was prepared to play Sunday.
"I just prepare the same way that everyone else prepares on this team," said Winston, the former No. 1 overall draft pick who started for Tampa Bay for five seasons. "I try to give everybody my all. I try to be right there with Drew along the way, watching film with him and preparing with him. So, I felt like I went out there and I was prepared to lead this team. And I'm happy that my teammates had my back. And they went out there and executed well, and things went our way."
The Saints were 5-0 without Brees last season, and functioned efficiently in his absence with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.
"The game's not going to stop for injury," Kamara said Sunday. "Drew went down, Jameis Winston has been practicing all week, just like everybody else. He stepped up, he executed. He did what he had to do. We came out with a win. That is what we want to do. Week in and week out and we were able to do that and we're moving forward.
"I practice with Jameis every day. I am familiar with Jameis. He is familiar with the offense because he practices in the same facility that Drew practices in every day. When Drew went down, Jameis just came in and did what he does all week. And he studies the same game plan, and he knows what we want to do and that's win."