Drew Brees' retirement from the NFL was big, but it wasn't necessarily a surprise. He spent most of his final two seasons as the New Orleans Saints quarterback banged up, even missing four games in 2020 because of multiple cracked ribs and a collapsed lung.
Brees spoke about his final season on Wednesday from TPC Louisiana ahead of the Pro-Am charity golf tournament, and discussed how he felt for most of the season. (Spoiler: He didn't feel great.)
"I only really felt good in one game, from the perspective of, I had all the tools in my toolbox," Brees said via the team 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."
One of those "things" that took place with his body was an abdominal issue that he dealt with for most of the season. It limited his ability to rotate, which is challenging for a quarterback.
"... 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."
Brees enjoying the freedom of retirement
Brees isn't the type to spend his early retirement sitting in a lawn chair with a six pack and some tunes. He's enjoying trying things that he never would have done when he was still playing football, because they're risky enough to have been prohibited in his contract, or just too risky for his personal comfort.
"[Retirement] has given me a chance to get into some other things that I otherwise wouldn't be doing — mountain biking, eFoiling [foil surfing], some stuff that probably would not be in my contract," Brees said. "It's been fun to try some of that other stuff."
Doing more "risky" activities even extends to his family. They went skiing over the winter, which he hadn't done since he was 17. He stopped doing those kinds of activities when he went to college, and explained how his commitment to football has shaped his life and his family's life over the last two decades.
"Every decision I've made over the last 20 years is, what puts me in the best position to succeed as an NFL quarterback," Brees said via the team website. "And so that was my training, that was my recovery, that was what I can and can't do in regards to the risks that I can take or not take, just knowing that I had a responsibility to my team and the organization to be their quarterback and be durable and be present and be around. That was priority No. 1.
"And even with your family. Literally, when training camp starts, that was my wife saying goodbye and realizing that this is now a seven-month commitment that's coming up where we don't get a chance to see you very much, and you don't get to see the kids very much. It's the reality of our job, and that's players and probably even more so for coaches during the season. There are sacrifices that come along with that."
It was hard, but Brees loved and and knows he'll miss it. He said that's one of the reasons he took a job with NBC to work as a broadcaster and in-studio analyst. It'll allow him to stay close to the game and ease his transition into life as a retired NFL player — a transition he knows will be tough.
"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."
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