NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been diagnosed with a torn ligament near the thumb of his throwing hand that is expected to sideline him at least six weeks, said a person familiar with the situation.
Brees has elected to have surgery, but it is not yet clear when the operation will take place or who will perform it, the person said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the diagnosis has not been announced.
Brees left Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams in the first quarter after the thumb on his right hand hit the hand of on-rushing Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald on the follow trough of a throw.
The Saints lost the game 27-9, with backup Teddy Bridgewater going 17 for 30 passing for 165 yards during the last three-plus quarters.
Saints coach Sean Payton declined on Monday to go into detail about Brees’ condition or even rule him out for this Sunday’s game in Seattle.
“They’re still in the midst of evaluating it,” said Payton, adding that Brees had received one diagnosis and was in the process of getting a second opinion.
Payton also declined to address what his offense would look like without Brees under center going forward.
“I’m sorry, I’m just not going to answer hypothetical questions right now,” Payton said. “I’m not going to do it.”
When asked how well the Saints had built a team that could absorb playing without Brees, Payton said, “We’re getting ready to find out,” before backtracking a bit.
“Hopefully the news is good and the length of time, if there is any that he’s out, will be shorter than longer. But, again, that’s part of our sport.”
While Brees, as a healthy player, has been a held out of a couple late-season games that held no postseason implications, he has missed only one start because of an injury in his previous 13 seasons with New Orleans. The Saints narrowly lost that 2015 game at Carolina, with Luke McCown at quarterback.
Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in completions with 6,621 and yards passing with 74,845. His 522 touchdowns tie him for second all-time with New England’s Tom Brady, 17 behind retired former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Saints are practicing this week in the Seattle area before playing the Seahawks on Sunday. New Orleans’ five games after they face Seattle are against Dallas, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Chicago and Arizona, followed by a Week 9 bye.
Bridgewater, a second-year Saints who returned to New Orleans this season on a one-year, $7.2 million free-agent deal, is the primary backup.
Taysom Hill, who plays a variety of skill positions on offense and also plays on special teams, is the third string QB. It remains to be seen how his playing time at various positions will be affected if he is elevated to second-string QB while Brees is out.
Bridgewater’s last start was with the Saints in the final regular season game of 2018, when New Orleans had already locked up the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Bridgewater completed 14 of 22 passes for 118 yards, one TD and one interception in a 33-14 loss to Carolina.
Earlier in his career, he was 17-11 as a starter with the Minnesota Vikings before a major knee injury sidelined him for all of 2016 and nearly all of 2017.
At 1-1, the Saints are tied for first place in the NFC South. They entered the season with high expectations after advancing to the NFC title game last season, losing to the Rams in a game marred by officials’ non-call of pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact fouls committed by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman against then-Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.