The evaluation, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, revealed the need for thumb surgery that could be done as early as Monday and could sideline Brees, one of the NFL’s iron men, for about six weeks. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Brees has a torn ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand and cited the same six-week estimate. Later Monday, Saints Coach Sean Payton said in a conference call that Brees was getting a second opinion.
The Saints made Teddy Bridgewater the NFL’s highest-paid backup for a reason, and now he’ll apparently get a chance to play in meaningful games. In Sunday’s 27-9 loss to the Rams, he completed 17 of 30 passes for 165 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He had two carries for five yards. Bridgewater signed a one-year, fully guaranteed deal for $7.25 million in the offseason.
Brees, meanwhile, met with with a Los Angeles hand specialist, reportedly Steven Shinn, the director of hand surgery at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute at Cedars-Sinai. Although he had X-rays Sunday at the Coliseum, he chose not to say what they had revealed until he had spoken with the specialist. With consecutive games on the West Coast, the Saints did not return to New Orleans and instead headed to Seattle for next week’s game, leaving the NFL’s all-time leading passer behind in Southern California.
A significant absence, which now seems inevitable, would be especially notable for Brees, who turned 40 in January and has been durable over his 19 seasons. Only once in 14 seasons with the Saints has he missed a game because of an injury (against Carolina in 2015 because of a rotator cuff). He sat out two others because they were regular season finales.
The 1-1 Saints are halfway through a season-opening stretch of four straight games against 2018 playoff teams; after the trip to 2-0 Seattle comes a home game against the 2-0 Dallas Cowboys.
Brees suffered the injury to his throwing hand when he struck the hand of Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald after releasing a pass from the shotgun formation midway through the first quarter. Although the contact looked benign, Brees quickly left the field. The hand was taped, but he could not return, and cameras revealed that he could not grip a football.
“You’re hitting your hands on stuff all the time — helmets and different things,” Brees, who completed 5 of 8 passes for 38 yards with one interception, told reporters. “You might get jammed thumbs, jammed fingers, different things where it swells up and what have you. But this felt like it was something a bit more significant, that prevented me from gripping the ball.”