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Brees will sit, Brunell will start in Saints' regular-season finale

Drew Brees will receive some rest this weekend, likely keeping his NFL-record completion percentage intact.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has decided to start Mark Brunell in place of his star quarterback in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers.

If Brees doesn't play, as expected, his completion mark of 70.60 percent will break the record of 70.55 set by Ken Anderson with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1982.

Brees was aware of the record.

"When I was a rookie quarterback in San Diego, I looked up all the records," he said Thursday. "I just wanted to know, you know? So I knew them all by heart there for a while."

Still, Brees said earlier this week that he was prepared to play Sunday and throw as often as Payton deemed necessary, taking the same approach to maintaining his completion percentage that Ted Williams took to hitting .400. Brees wears No. 9 in honor of Williams, the Boston Red Sox legend who raised his batting average from .400 to .406 by playing on the final day of the 1941 baseball season.

"I'm going to do whatever I'm asked to do and whatever I can to help this team," Brees said Thursday.

The Saints (13-2) already own the top seed for the NFC playoffs. With little at stake, they also decided not to play safety Darren Sharper and tight end David Thomas against the Panthers.

Sharper has minor soreness in his left knee. He was listed as questionable Friday, but was downgraded along with Thomas, who had been listed as doubtful because of a calf injury.

Brees has thrown for 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns this season. He completed 19 consecutive passes during the Saints' 20-17 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. However, four promising drives produced no points in that game because of two third-down completions that came up 1 yard short of a first down, Marques Colston's fourth-quarter fumble in Bucs territory and Garrett Hartley's missed 37-yard field-goal attempt, which could have won the game at the end of regulation.

Before Payton made public his decision to sit Brees, the quarterback said setting the completions percentage record would be "a big deal, but any passing record like that is a big deal."

"You're not keeping track of that as the game goes on like, 'Hey, I've thrown two incompletions here in a row, so I need to catch up by throwing six straight completions,'" Brees said. "But from an efficiency standpoint ... there's something to that number in regards to how it shows the efficiency of your offense or your passing game."

Brees will be listed as the Saints' third quarterback, behind Brunell and rookie Chase Daniel. The Times-Picayune first reported the move, and Payton confirmed it to The Associated Press in an e-mail Saturday.

Daniel was signed from the Saints' practice squad to the active roster, and the team waived veteran cornerback Mike McKenzie.

McKenzie's removal from the active roster raised the prospects of cornerback Jabari Greer returning from his sports hernia for one game before the Saints begin preparations for the playoffs. Greer has missed the last seven games and said he was ready and wanted to play this weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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