UPDATE, 7:26 p.m. Monday: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees suffered a bruised rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder during the Saints’ 26-19 loss to Arizona, according to a report by ESPN, but Saints coach Sean Payton remains confident that his franchise quarterback won’t miss much time.
Payton ended a day of swirling rumors and reports by shooting down an NFL Network report that Brees could miss several games during Payton’s weekly appearance on WWL Radio’s Coaches Show on Monday night.
“I would say his report is inaccurate,” Payton said. “Wednesday we will have a better idea. We will be smart.”
New Orleans won’t release its first injury report of the week until Wednesday, Payton’s initial target for a status update on Brees, who walked through the Saints’ locker room during the period open to the media Monday with no outward sign of a serious injury and politely declined an interview request from a reporter. Brees normally holds his weekly interviews Wednesday.
ESPN reported that Brees underwent an MRI on Monday that revealed no serious injury, and Payton followed up his initial statement by saying he does not consider the injury a threat to linger.
“It’s not going to be something where it’s long-term,” Payton told WWL. “I think both he and the doctors are optimistic.”
Payton will wait until Wednesday to determine whether or not there’s a chance for Brees to miss this week’s game at Carolina.
“It’s early right now,” Payton said. “Today’s the day after, and we’ll take a peek and see how he’s feeling and coming along, and see where we’re at Wednesday. Certainly, we’ll do the best thing for him and for where he’s at, but I think it’s early to say that.”
Under a heavy rush, Brees took several hits from the Buccaneers in the first half.
The telling blow came in the second quarter. Dropping back deep in his own territory, Brees was hit by Tampa Bay defensive end Jacquies Smith as the quarterback began his throwing motion, and Smith’s arm forcibly stopped Brees from completing his follow-through. After the play, Brees was clearly in discomfort. He got up, flexed the shoulder several times and kept stretching.
“I’m not worried about Drew, but certainly, when he takes a shot like he took yesterday — and I didn’t see it until watching the film today — you want to make sure he’s healthy and he’s upright,” Payton said. “He’s been throwing it outstanding, but he takes that shot, and obviously, that can affect you once you get hit like that.”
Brees played the rest of the game, finishing 24-of-38 for 255 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But he clearly wasn’t the same after Smith’s hit. Early in the third quarter, Brandin Cooks broke free down the right sideline, and Brees loaded up for the throw, only to see it come out wobbly, an underthrow the Buccaneers intercepted.
Brees admitted after the game that the injury affected him.
“I’d say it affected me on a few of the throws down the field,” Brees said. “They just didn’t come out very well.”
Despite the pain in his shoulder, Brees initially tried to downplay the extent of the injury in his post-game news conference.
“Everybody’s dealing with something,” Brees said. “So you bounce back.”
If Brees has to miss a game because of injury, it would end a remarkable run for the quarterback, who has missed just one start in his 10 seasons in New Orleans, a coach’s decision to keep him out of the season finale against Carolina at the end of the 2009 season.
Veteran backup Luke McCown is next in line to take the helm of the Saints offense. McCown, a career backup who beat out former Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin for the backup job during training camp, has made nine starts — spread out among three teams — in his 12 seasons in the league.
McCown last made an NFL start in 2011 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Named Jacksonville’s opening day starter over David Garrard, McCown led the Jaguars to a 16-14 win over the Tennessee Titans in the opener, then faltered badly in the second game, completing just six of 19 passes for 59 yards and four interceptions in a 32-3 loss to the Jets.
Cut loose by the Jaguars after the season, McCown spent one season in Atlanta before finding a home in New Orleans, where he has spent the past three seasons. Forced to battle for the backup job when the Saints drafted Garrett Grayson in the third round this offseason, McCown responded by completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 323 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason, posting a 126.2 quarterback rating. Grayson, who has been inactive for the first two games, likely becomes the Saints’ backup if Brees is forced to miss time.