The New Orleans Saints have officially designated Drew Brees to return to practice Wednesday, per Nick Underhill. Brees has been on injured reserve since suffering 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung in Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Drew Brees has been designated to return to practice from injured reserve, per source— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) December 16, 2020
New Orleans hasn’t activated him to the 53-man active roster just yet, and he won’t show up on the Saints injury report until he’s on the active roster. This means that Brees technically can return under center as early as Week 15, when the Saints play the Kansas City Chiefs.
When the schedule was first released, this matchup was one of, if not the most anticipated game for the Saints this season. Shockingly, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes have never faced off against one another. Knowing the competitive prowess of Brees, this undoubtedly fueled him to quicken his return trajectory. That said, just because Brees can officially suit up this weekend for the Chiefs matchup doesn’t necessarily mean that he should.
Brees was eligible to be activated from IR prior to the Week 14 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Tellingly, New Orleans declined to officially designate his return to practice that week. As much as Drew is a fighter, and can likely play through the pain better than anyone, he’s ultimately a 41-yr quarterback who suffered enormous injuries just weeks ago.
One of the notable concerns in the Saints Week 14 loss to Philadelphia was the collapse of the interior o-line; this same point on the line crumbled in the Wild Card loss to the Minnesota Vikings in 2019. Brees was sacked three times, hit 7 times, and ultimately couldn’t find any type of rhythm in the pocket in that loss.
The Saints released their Week 15 injury report late Wednesday, and some of the names on there spell trouble for a potential Brees return. Mainly, Ryan Ramczyk and Andrus Peat were both limited with respective elbow and foot injuries, while Nick Easton did not practice with a concussion. That’s three of the starting members of New Orleans offensive line; the fully healthy line could not hold up against the Eagles, and Taysom Hill was sacked five times. Some of that falls on Hill, but the line was certainly culpable.
The fact that New Orleans declined to activate Brees last week indicates that he likely is still healing from his injuries; there’s no way that he will be 100% healthy by Sunday. If Brees is not fully healed, New Orleans absolutely should not, and likely will not, risk re-injury behind a somewhat depleted o-line that’s been faulty this season. Of note, that same interior collapse resulted in Drew’s injury in the first place.
As much as fans want to see Brees and Mahomes duel it out, and as much as the cries louden for Hill to be benched in favor of either Brees or Winston, we ultimately shouldn’t expect a Brees start this weekend. With the Week 14 loss, the Saints lost control of their destiny and hold on the No. 1 seed. Now that they’re in catch-up mode, with the path back to the top seed in the hands of Green Bay, it’s just not worth risking Brees and losing him for the season.
The Chiefs are an AFC team, so this matchup doesn’t affect the Saints conference record. This record, as well as the common games tiebreaker, will likely come into play down the stretch in the event of a Packers loss that re-opens the No. 1 seed for the taking. The Saints, with an 8-2 conference record, have a strong chance of winning this tiebreaker; a loss in Week 15 won’t affect it either way. Out of the three remaining games, this weekend’s matchup is the one New Orleans can afford to lose the most.
As such, there’s no immediate need to rush back Drew Brees. Taysom Hill can afford to take hits this Sunday - Brees can’t. With a locked slot in the playoffs, while this news is certainly positive, it ultimately doesn’t indicate a Week 15 return. We’ll see how this week transpires, but we shouldn’t be rooting for a Brees start if he’s anything less than 100%.
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