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Saints’ Brees may miss several weeks

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METAIRIE, La. — For the moment, the New Orleans Saints’ 0-2 start after Sunday’s stunning 26-19 setback to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be the least of head coach Sean Payton’s worries.

Multiple reports indicate that quarterback Drew Brees will likely miss games — perhaps several — after he took a hard hit to his throwing shoulder early in the second quarter against the Bucs.

ESPN reported Brees avoided major injury and his ability to play in Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers will be determined by how he responds to treatment. Citing league sources, the ESPN report said an MRI confirmed Brees suffered a bruised rotator cuff with no tear.

After the disappointing loss, Brees admitted a direct hit he took on the shoulder from the Bucs’ Jacquies Smith just as he started his throwing motion affected him on a few passes later in the game. After the hit, Brees shook his arm and rotated his shoulder while waiting for the next play call to come in.

Payton also acknowledged Monday that Brees was affected by the hit, but said it was too early to tell if the 15-year veteran would miss any playing time. In nine-plus seasons with the Saints, Brees, who turns 37 in January, has never missed a snap because of injury.

“Today’s the day after. … You take a peek and see how he’s feeling, coming along, and see where we’re at Wednesday,” Payton said. “Certainly, we’ll do the best thing for him and for where he’s at. But I think it’s early to say.

“I’m not worried about Drew, but certainly, when he takes a shot like he took yesterday, and I didn’t see it until watching the film today, you want to make sure he’s healthy and he’s upright. He’s been throwing it outstanding, but he takes that shot, and obviously, that can affect you once you get hit like that.”

In an interview with the team’s flagship radio station following the game, Brees said he was fine and later said he never considered leaving the game.

He also admitted that he had trouble with the shoulder at the end of last season, but in typical Brees fashion tried to downplay Sunday’s injury.

“Everybody’s dealing with something, so you bounce back,” he said.

Brees, of course, suffered a devastating shoulder injury in the final game of the 2005 season when he was with the San Diego Chargers.

He was hurt when he tried to recover a fumble and a defensive player landed on top of him, which resulted in a torn labrum and a partial tear of the rotator cuff. Two months later, Brees signed with the Saints.

Brees didn’t have ice on his shoulder for a postgame interview Sunday and showed no outward signs of injury when he walked through the locker room during the time it was open to media Monday. He politely declined a request for an interview, which was not a surprise since Wednesday is the day he meets with reporters.

Saints’ officials had no comment on the NFL Network report and won’t have to file an injury report until Wednesday when the team returns to the practice field to begin preparing for Sunday’s road game with the Panthers.

If Brees is sidelined, journeyman Luke McCown would step in as the starter. McCown has started just nine games in his 12-year career for five teams and has thrown for 2,035 yards with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B — Considering he played most of the final three quarters with an injured throwing shoulder, Drew Brees’ stats weren’t all that bad. Brees completed 24 of 38 passes for 255 yards with a touchdown and an interception and a passer rating of 80.5, but it was easy to see he had trouble throwing the deep ball with his longest completion going for 24 yards. He was also sacked four times. Brandin Cooks caught five passes for 62 yards, while Marques Colston had four receptions for 69 yards. Willie Snead caught four passes for 44 yards with his first NFL touchdown, a 16-yarder in the final quarter.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus — After a slow start with only 25 yards and a 1.8 average on 14 carries in the first half, the Saints did a better job in the final two quarters. They finished with 104 yards and a 3.9 average on 27 tries, which meant they more than tripled their first-half output with one fewer carry. Mark Ingram had 53 yards on 16 carries with an 11-yard TD run late in the first half and Khiry Robinson ran with power in netting 48 yards and a 9.6 average on just five attempts with a long of 14 yards. C.J. Spiller had seven yards on three attempts in his return from arthroscopic knee surgery.

–PASS DEFENSE: C — The Saints did a decent job for most of the game even though the Bucs didn’t take many unnecessary chances with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. He completed 14 of 21 pass attempts for 207 yards with a TD and no interceptions and had a passer rating of 114.6. Winston did throw a 54-yard pass to Louis Murphy, who caught three balls in all for 82 yards. Vincent Jackson had a 15-yard TD catch among his three receptions for 54 yards against a banged-up Saints secondary that was missing two starters.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — The Buccaneers averaged 4.0 yards per carry with 139 yards on 35 attempts with Doug Martin gaining 78 yards — including a long of 20 yards — on 21 attempts. Saints defensive tackle Kevin Williams did strip Martin on a fourth-quarter carry, which Brees turned into a 16-yard TD pass to Snead. Charles Sims added 38 yards on eight carries with a long of 12 yards.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus — It was a bad day for the Saints with the exception of punter Thomas Morstead, who averaged 43.8 yards on four kicks. He had a long of 55 yards and also had one punt downed at the Bucs’ 4. Kicker Zach Hocker missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt and had a PAT blocked. The Saints also gave up a 37-yard kickoff return to Bobby Rainey, who also had an 18-yard punt return in averaging 11.3 yards on three attempts. Marcus Murphy also muffed a punt that he managed to recover for no yards and also had one kickoff return for just 23 yards.

–COACHING: C — Payton tried his best to get his team back in the game after it trailed 23-7 late in the third quarter, but his hands were tied somewhat as a play-caller after Brees injured his shoulder. Payton had to go to the run more than he would have liked trailing by 16 in the final quarter and it almost worked out for him before three giveaways ultimately did his team in.


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