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Saints designate Drew Brees (ribs/lung) to return from IR

Drew Brees is one step closer to returning to the field.

New Orleans officially designated Brees to return from injured reserve, per the league's transaction wire, clearing a major hurdle on Brees' path back to game action. The quarterback could make his return as early as Week 15, when the Saints face the Kansas City Chiefs in a battle of NFL powers.

Saints coach Sean Payton didn't rule out a potential Brees return this week when speaking with reporters Wednesday.

"We haven't ruled anything just because we don't have to," Payton said, per ESPN.com. "He's got a ways to go still, and he's someone we're not gonna just hurry back and just put him in the game.

"I think the significance of the injuries are such that you've gotta make sure he can function and feel confident."

Brees hasn't played since Week 10, when he suffered rib and lung injuries that forced him out for a month of the season. The Saints placed him on injured reserve to allow him time to heal and get healthy enough to play, which could be possible this weekend.

New Orleans has won three of its four games without Brees, starting Taysom Hill in his place. While not outstanding, Hill was reliably effective in the victories before tailing off in performance in the Saints' surprise loss to the struggling Eagles in Week 14.

With a massive game set for Sunday against the reigning Super Bowl champions, Brees can't return fast enough. We'll see this weekend whether he's able to take the field with the goal of leading the Saints to a big win.

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