After what may have been quarterback Drew Brees’ last game with the New Orleans Saints — and of his career — he spent nearly two hours on the Superdome field, throwing passes to his children and catching up with Tom Brady.
Questions swirled around the longtime New England Patriots quarterback’s own future last year, with Brady announcing in March he was moving on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after two decades with Bill Belichick and company.
Now, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons, with Fox Sports reporting the 42-year-old is retiring. Brees is under contract for one more year, but has not discussed any plans to play beyond this season. He has a contract to join NBC Sports once his playing career is done.
Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance.
Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 postseason appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform.
But after a 30-20 playoff loss in New Orleans to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, Brees did not appear to have any hard feelings over a disappointing end.
When the game concluded, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with his wife, Brittany, while his three sons and daughter played nearby.
“I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.”
Brady and Brees spoke for a long time on the field, as the Saints quarterback’s family looked onward — his sons throwing a football around, and his daughter swinging between his legs.
Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but he lingered longer than usual Sunday night — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again.
For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season.
“I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I’m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said.
That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl.
Before Brady and Brees parted ways, the pair shook hands and embraced.
Brady then threw a football to one of Brees’ sons, who caught it in the end zone.
“We could have used you tonight,” Brady said in response.
This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round.
“I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game.”
He continued: “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.”
Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire.
As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.