Drew Brees missed four games in the middle of the 2020 campaign due to broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Those issues weren't the only ones that the future Hall of Fame QB dealt with during his final NFL season.
Speaking Wednesday from TPC Louisiana ahead of the Pro-Am golf charity tournament, Brees said he only felt right for one game: Week 4 in Detroit.
"I only really felt good in one game, from the perspective of, I had all the tools in my toolbox," he said, referring to the Week 4 road outing, per the team's official website. "I had a lot of limitations throughout the season as to what I could and couldn't do, and I recognized that. And that's really hard for a competitor. That's really hard when you know what you should be able to do, and yet you can't because of various injuries, or things that are taking place with your body.
"Some of those things are just kind of freak things -- tear a plantar fascia, you get damage in your shoulder, you get the broken ribs, the punctured lung. You get all this stuff that's going on -- this abdominal thing that I was dealing with for pretty much most of the season that, as a quarterback, everything you do is rotation.
"And you can't rotate the way that you want, you all of a sudden begin to accommodate in ways and everything for you kind of narrows. Because it's like, 'Well I know I can't make that throw, I can't make that throw, I can't make that throw. So, what's now in my toolbox?' And it's harder to play the game that way. And yet, you've got to find a way still to get it done. And I felt like we did that, but it was difficult."
In that Week 4 win in Detroit, sans many of his ordinary weapons, Brees threw for 246 yards, completing 76 percent of his passes with a TD and one INT. It was a victory that jumpstarted the Saints' nine-game winning streak, which included three in games Brees missed.
Most players are banged up throughout the season -- the best play through the nicks and bruises without the world knowing, as did Brees. The HOFer proved, even at the end of his 20-year career, when injured, he was still a better option than most.
Now turning to the next phase of his life, the 42-year-old is still just starting to get used to his new daily routine as he prepares for his future beyond the gridiron.
"I know I'll miss it, and honestly, it's a big reason why I took advantage of the opportunity to sign with NBC and be a broadcaster for Notre Dame games with Mike Tirico and do the in-studio work for 'Football Night in America,' is to stay connected with the game, to stay connected with the coaches and the players and all those relationships that I've been able to build throughout my career," he said.
"But also a way to maybe just fill that void that I know will come by not being a player anymore. I'm excited for the next chapter, I'm excited for this next opportunity but at the same time, I do recognize that there will be challenges. There'll be kind of a range of emotions, especially as we get closer to football season, when you start getting that itch and that excitement knowing that guys are going back to work and starting to prepare for another season, and you're not a part of it as a player anymore."