Seattle – New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton was more inclined to address absolutes than possibilities Monday regarding Drew Brees’ right thumb injury, sustained in Sunday’s 27-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
With no concrete diagnosis on the throwing hand of the starting quarterback, Payton said he would wait for all information to be gathered and processed before he would provide a definitive statement on Brees’ injury and possible recovery process.
“They’re still in the midst of evaluating it,” Payton said. “He’s had one opinion, (he’s) having a second opinion. As soon as we know something that we can confirm, then we’ll report it. But right now, that’s kind of the stage we’re in.”
Brees injured his thumb after nine offensive plays, on a pass intended for tight end Jared Cook, when his thumb banged into the hand of Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Brees went to the sideline and was unable to return to the huddle. Teddy Bridgewater replaced Brees in the lineup.
“I’m not going to kind of go into the hypothetical,” Payton said. “We’ll have a plan either way.”
Brees completed three of five passes for 38 yards and an interception before the injury. Bridgewater completed 17 of 30 for 165 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions, and was sacked twice.
“You focus on the things you can control,” Payton said. “This is where you lean on leadership and you get ready to have a good week of practice. It’s kind of the nature of our league sometimes. You come in on a Monday and you’ve got a handful of things that you’re having to address. That’s part of the deal.”
While Payton said he wouldn’t deal in hypotheticals, he said that the roster hopefully is constructed so that it can absorb the loss of Brees.
“We’re getting ready to find out,” he said. “Hopefully, the news is good and the length of time – if there is any – that he’s out will be shorter than longer. But, again, that’s part of our sport.”
Bridgewater, who’s in his sixth season, started the regular-season finale in 2018 against Carolina and completed 14 of 22 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. It was his first start since 2016, when he was the starter for Minnesota.
He started his first two NFL seasons with the Vikings, completing 551 of 849 passes for 6,150 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 21 interceptions, before suffering a major, season-ending knee injury during preseason of his third season. He missed that year and all but one game of the next, signed with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent in March 2018, and then was traded to the Saints at the end of preseason.
This offseason, as an unrestricted free agent, Bridgewater signed a one-year deal with the Saints. Payton has been pleased with what he has shown.
“I think we see it on a daily basis,” Payton said. “We see his arm strength, his confidence, we see the leadership. We see all those things.”
Payton said that Sunday, the offensive struggles (244 yards, three field goals) were due to the entire unit, and that the defense kept New Orleans in the game, especially early. The Saints trailed 6-3 at halftime.
“I thought we played real well defensively, particularly in the first half,” Payton said. “It got away from us later in the fourth quarter, but it was the type of game I felt that was necessary for us to play. It was low-scoring.
“Offensively, I didn’t think we played particularly well up front. The penalties were a factor (Sunday), just the amount. It negated three different gains of more than 15 yards, so that’s something we’ve got to clean up on, and obviously, quickly.”
Brees’ exit was the first time he has been unable to finish a game due to injury. In his first 13 seasons with New Orleans, he missed one game due to injury (twice, he sat out the regular-season finale after the Saints had clinched the No. 1 seed, including last year).
Brees immediately knew the seriousness of Sunday's injury – he couldn’t grip a football on the sideline – and afterward, as he addressed the media postgame, he expressed hope that the injury wasn’t severe. But even then, he admitted that it was different than the routine hand-banging and finger-jamming that quarterbacks routinely endure. Brees remained in Los Angeles on Sunday to receive consultation on his hand Monday.
In the season opener against Houston, he completed 32 of 43 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception, while leading New Orleans to a 30-28, comeback victory that culminated on a 58-yard, game-winning field goal by Wil Lutz as time expired.