Drew Brees has missed 7 starts due to injury in 25 years. A review of the Saints QB’s serious injuries

Drew Brees has missed 7 starts due to injury in 25 years. A review of the Saints QB’s serious injuries

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has long been known for his durability, only appearing in the injury report a handful of times during his 20-year NFL career.

His penchant for avoiding injuries began before that, as he went through four years at Purdue without missing a start because of injury.

Over the past 25 years, Brees has missed just seven starts because of injury, though that number will grow this season as he recovers from fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.

Thanks to convenient timing, not all of the serious injuries Brees has suffered during his football career have caused him to miss much playing time.

Between his ACL tear in 1995 and his latest ribs/lung predicament, a look back at the serious injuries that have sidelined — or threatened to sideline — Brees:

Knee, December 1995

A high school junior on the verge of turning 17, Brees led his Westlake Chaparrals to the Texas Class 5A, Division 2 playoffs. In the first half of Westlake’s regional game against Alice, the Chaparrals were knocking at the door from the 9-yard-line, down 14-0, when Brees went down with a torn ACL in his left knee.

Brees, wearing No. 15, took the snap from under center and faked the handoff to his running back before one of the Alice defenders swooped in. One of Brees’ tailbacks blocked the defender, but not before the defender grabbed Brees’ right ankle, which prompted him to stumble. Brees rolled on the grass before grabbing his left knee. He promptly bounced back up, limping around the field.

[Editor’s note: Start the video above at the 5:10 mark.]

Brees missed the rest of the game with his injury, and his Chaparrals won the game to advance to the quarterfinals, facing San Antonio Roosevelt. Without Brees, Westlake lost to the eventual state champions, and Brees ultimately missed just one game with a torn ACL.

Brees, completely healthy, led Westlake to a 16-0 record and the 5A state championship — throttling Abilene Cooper 55-15 in the title game — the following season in 1996.

Career starts missed: 1

Shoulder, December 2005

Brees didn’t suffer a serious injury again until 10 years later.

In what was Brees’ final game as the San Diego Chargers’ quarterback, he left the San Diego’s regular-season finale against Denver in the second quarter.

The reason: Brees suffered a shoulder injury after Denver safety John Lynch hit him in the end zone for what could have been a safety but wasn’t because of the Chargers recovering the ball.

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The initial post-game diagnosis was that Brees dislocated his right shoulder, but further tests revealed Brees dislocated his shoulder through the bottom of the joint and that he suffered a 360-degree tear of his labrum and a partial tear of the rotator cuff.

In the moment, Brees thought his Chargers career was over before moving to an even more poignant thought: “It might be the last time I ever put on a football uniform of any significance.”

Brees was later told the way he dislocated his shoulder was a one-in-500 injury.

Brees’ injury required arthroscopic surgery where acclaimed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews fixed his shoulder by using 11 anchors — otherwise known as fasteners — one in the labrum and two in his rotator cuff.

Brees remained in a sling for three weeks, and got full range of motion back in six weeks. But Brees failed his physical in Miami, which, in turn, led Brees to New Orleans.

Because the Chargers were out of playoff contention, Brees didn’t miss a game because of the injury. After Brees signed with the Saints in free agency, he was back to 100% health by the time the 2006 season began.

“At the time when I tore my ACL in high school or when I dislocated my shoulder, at those moments, I thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen to me,” Brees said back in 2018. “I now look back at those moments and say, those were probably two of the best things that could have ever happened to me.”

Career starts missed: still 1

Oblique, August 2014

The first time Brees dealt with a significant injury in New Orleans was during the 2014 training camp when he suffered an oblique injury that forced him to miss six practices in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and two preseason games before returning to practice on Aug. 18, 2014.

Brees didn’t miss any time during the regular season, though he admitted a year later that he “developed bad habits” and changed his mechanics because of the oblique injury.

Brees completed an NFL-high 456 passes on an NFL-high 659 attempts for an NFL-high 4,952 yards that season, leading the Saints to a 7-9 record.

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Career starts missed: still 1

Shoulder, September 2015

Brees suffered a second shoulder injury in the Saints’ Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 20, 2015.

There were two hits in that game that could have that aggravated Brees’ shoulder.

The first came in the first quarter when defensive end Jacquies Smith maneuvered past then-tackle Zach Strief and ran into Brees’ arm while he was winding up to throw.

The other potential culprit came in the second quarter when Smith came at Brees from the right side — hitting him while he was throwing. The ball came out, and was ruled a fumble that the Saints recovered.

Brees finished the game, though later admitting that his throwing shoulder was affected on a couple of deep pass attempts.

Brees bruised his rotator cuff in the game — avoiding serious injury like a repeat of 2005 — but was ruled out of the following game against the Carolina Panthers.

In that game, backup Luke McCown became the first second-string quarterback to get a start in injury relief for Brees. McCown completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards, but his comeback efforts fell short after he was picked off late by safety Josh Norman.

Brees returned the following week to play the Dallas Cowboys, completing 80% of his passes in the Saints’ first win of that season.

Career starts missed: 2

Foot, December 2015

Brees suffered a Grade 2 tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot in a Monday night game against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 21, 2015. The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects the heel to the toes on the bottom of the foot.

Brees finished the game against the Lions, and the Saints lost that contest 35-27. After only practicing once the following week in the lead up to Dec. 27’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brees played after being designated as questionable.

He pieced together one of the best games yardage-wise of his career the next week against the Jaguars, throwing for 412 yards with three touchdowns. Of the 284 regular-season games he’s played in, Brees has topped 400 yards passing 16 times.

Career starts missed: still 2

Thumb, September 2019

The Saints were facing the Los Angeles Rams in a Week 2 game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when Brees suffered his first injury that required him to miss multiple consecutive starts.

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In the first quarter on Sept. 15, 2019, Brees’ hand slammed into NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald — resulting in a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the thumb on his throwing hand.

Donald rushed Brees from the right side, getting the edge on guard Andrus Peat. Brees got the ball away in time to avoid the sack, but his hand collided with Donald.

Brees didn’t come back into the game, citing how he couldn’t grip the football, and backup Teddy Bridgewater took over from there in a 27-9 loss.

Brees missed five games and Bridgewater continued his relief efforts, leading the Saints to five straight wins over the Seahawks, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Jaguars and Bears.

Career starts missed: 7.

Chest, November 2020

The latest medical issue for Brees is a combination of injuries. As it stands, Brees reportedly has five rib fractures and a collapsed lung. He is seeking an additional medical opinion, as there’s some suspicion that he might have more than five fractured ribs.

Brees’ injuries reportedly stem from at least two separate collisions in two different games.

Doctors believe Brees broke at least two ribs on his right side Sunday, with those broken ribs creating a pneumothorax — a collapsed lung — on his right side, according to ESPN’s Ed Werder.

The hit that caused those specific injuries was levied by 49ers defensive end Kentavius Street, who was flagged for a roughing-the-passer penalty. Had the flag not been thrown, it would have resulted in a sack.

The imaging from Monday also showed at least three additional rib fractures on his left side, likely coming from the game against the Buccaneers a week prior, Werder reported.

The jury is still out regarding how long he’ll be sidelined.

The Saints haven’t named a starter yet, and the choice is between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.

The Saints’ schedule is relatively soft over the next several weeks — vs. Atlanta (3-6), at Denver (3-6), at Atlanta and at Philadelphia (3-5-1) — before a home game with reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City (8-1) on Dec. 20.

Career starts missed: 7 — and counting.