The panic has been breathless since Drew Brees injured his shoulder during the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Before a second opinion could even be given on the Saints quarterback’s shoulder, people were already calling it the end of an era. And if it wasn’t the end of an era, prophets proclaimed that, at the very least, the 2015 season was over after consecutive losses to start the season.
A larger than usual media contingent showed up at the Saints’ practice facility to get a glimpse at the quarterback and see what he had to say. Outlets from across the country were on hand to ask if he would miss Sunday’s contest against the Carolina Panthers, which would mark his first missed game because of injury since coming to New Orleans in 2006.
“(I’m) pretty confident,” Brees said.
But, even though he claims it will be, the decision isn’t entirely up to him. It will be determined by how well his shoulder responds throughout the week. Right now he’s starting from ground zero.
Brees was present at Wednesday’s practice but did not throw a pass. His week will be dominated by putting himself through mental reps, doing rehab, and gauging what progress he makes throughout the week.
He’s already checked with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery on Brees’ shoulder in 2006 and evaluated his current injury earlier this week, and with throwing coach Tom House about his mechanics. Together they’ve pieced together a best course of action.
If there’s any possibility of playing this week, he says he’ll be on the field. At the same time, Brees said he will also be cautious about doing anything that could turn his bruised rotator cuff into a more serious diagnosis or lingering issue.
“Each day you wake up and see how you feel,” Brees said. “See what you can do more compared to the day before. Obviously, you have to be smart because you don’t want to aggravate it or re-injure it more. There is a balance to what we’re doing here, in regards to rehabbing, recovery and rest versus trying to get back.”
About 30 minutes after Brees stepped down from the lectern, Zach Strief walked through the locker room and initially excused himself and exited into another room. After he came back, he explained that he was living a scenario he’s long feared.
Strief feels responsible for Brees being injured. He was the one who was beat by Jacquies Smith on the hit that knocked Brees out of action. It weighs on him.
“It’s your biggest fear as a lineman, especially with a guy like that, is letting him down. You know, I wouldn’t be telling anybody anything new or secretive if I told you it was me.
“So yeah, I said, ‘Sorry,’ and of course, he handled it the way you’d expect, ‘I could’ve done this, I could have that,’ because that’s how he is, but you’re letting your guy down, you’re letting your team down and that’s disappointing.”
If Brees plays this week, he admits it will be important to understand his limitations and go into the game knowing what he can and cannot do. He didn’t have that benefit of that knowledge during the second half of Sunday’s game, when he underthrew several passes, including one that was intercepted.
At the same time, Brees said if he’s on the field, he doesn’t expect the playbook to change. If he plays, he expects to be do everything that would normally be asked of him.
“You just want to find a way to play through it and find a way to manage it and play with it, and however I can make that play, obviously within the rules, then I’m going to make it happen,” Brees said. “I don’t want to give myself an excuse.”
Whether Brees is on the field or not, all parties involved say that it will not impact how they game plan for Sunday’s game. Since Luke McCown has a similar quarterbacking style to Brees, New Orleans will keep going about its business as it typically would.
“It’s not like we have a zone-read package with one and a dropback package with the other,” coach Sean Payton said. “Last night was the first night in game planning, and we’ll get to work on it today. We’ll make sure we’re getting the reps at that position and see how he does.”
Carolina feels the same way. Coach Ron Rivera said his team is preparing for an offense, not a player. And since McCown approaches the position similarly to Brees, they don’t have to prepare differently for either player.
Panthers safety Roman Harper, who played in New Orleans from 2006-2013, thinks there would only be some variations in how the team operates on the field.
“Luke is very mobile and has a big time arm,” Harper said. “I wouldn’t expect too many things to change. Maybe he would take more shots downfield. I don’t really know.”
No one really knows anything right now. Brees is confident in his shoulder, but this situation won’t resolve itself through belief and hope. It comes down to Brees’ shoulder, and right now it’s too soon to tell.