The New Orleans Saints are still waiting for a second opinion on the torn plantar fascia Drew Brees suffered in his right foot Monday.
But if Brees can play without the risk of injuring his right foot any further, Saints coach Sean Payton said, the face of the franchise will play.
Regardless of the fact that the Saints can no longer make the playoffs.
“My thinking is typically, if a player is playing, we’ve cleared him medically, and he’s not risking further injury,” Payton said. “If a player has a risk to further injure himself, we don’t play him. That would be in the regular season, that would be in the postseason, that would be with two weeks left to go in the season where we’re at now.”
Brees was listed with a “did not practice” designation on the Saints’ Wednesday injury report, but the quarterback could play against Jacksonville without practicing this week. Due to the short week, the Saints won’t have a regular week of practice anyway.
“We’ve kind of gone through this before,” Payton told the Jacksonville media, referring to the shoulder injury Brees suffered earlier this season. “First off, we’re on a short week to begin, what with Monday night, so it’s going to be more of a walk-through tempo.”
Athletes have been able to play through similar injuries in the past. Former Saints tight end Jimmy Graham played all 16 games in 2013 despite dealing with the injury. Giants quarterback Eli Manning did the same in 2009.
But Payton was reluctant to comment on the details of Brees’ injury until the Saints receive a second opinion from Charlotte-based foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson.
“We’re kind of taking it day by day,” Payton said. “I know he’s had it looked at, he’s had an MRI. I think each day we’ll gather more information and have a better idea of where he’s going to be as it pertains to playing in this game or not.”
Jacksonville is expecting to see Brees, who has missed just one game in his career because of injury: a Week 3 absence against Carolina due to a bruised rotator cuff that robbed his throwing arm of the necessary strength to play an NFL game.
“Any time there’s a situation with an injury, you have to be prepared. You go into every game knowing who the backup is, and you watch tape on him,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “We’re going into it expecting to see Drew.”
If Brees can’t go, the Saints’ players expect veteran backup Matt Flynn to play in Brees’ place. New Orleans could also opt to go with rookie Garrett Grayson, who has been inactive for all but two games this season.
Flynn, who has been active as Brees’ backup since the off week, initially began warming up and went through a conversation with Payton on the sideline while Brees was examined by trainers Monday night.
“That would be my assumption. As far as I know, he is the backup quarterback, correct?” tight end Benjamin Watson said. “The only reason I say that is because during the game I know that Matt was warming up. I know he was up. That would be my assumption, but obviously that would be a coach’s decision once we got to the actual game.”
Flynn played in seven games for Green Bay last season, completing eight of 16 passes for 66 yards and an interception. Brees, who famously takes nearly all of the reps in practice during the week leading up to the game, leaves little room for a backup to get a lot of snaps in practice, but Flynn has had ample time to learn the Saints’ system.
But until the Saints hear Payton or Brees rule out their franchise quarterback, they’re operating on the assumption that No. 9 will take the field in the home finale against Jacksonville.
“I don’t know who it would be if Drew wasn’t there, but again, I’ll reiterate the fact that since I’ve been here, Drew hadn’t missed a game except for the Carolina game this year,” Watson said. “He is usually pretty reliable, so the idea is that we’ll just go through the week and see if he is going to be up or not.”