Brees still committed to New Orleans as he joins new “incredible team” at NBC

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Jen Hale, Drew Brees

Drew Brees is no longer the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints.

But Brees’ experience with the Saints will serve him well as he embarks on his post NFL-playing life and his impact on New Orleans will continue.

Brees, who announced his retirement Sunday, made that clear Wednesday during a conference call with reporters from around the country to discuss his new career with NBC Sports.

“I’m going from one incredible team to another incredible team,” Brees said. “The best of the best.”

Brees, who became the NFL’s most productive passer of all-time during his 15 seasons with New Orleans, will join NBC’s “Football Night in America” show as a studio analyst and work with Mike Tirico as an analyst on Notre Dame football game broadcasts.

He’ll also be included in the network’s coverage of next season’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles as well as other major events, including the Olympics and the Kentucky Derby.

Brees agreed nearly a year ago to join NBC whenever he retired from playing, but the union didn’t become official until Monday.

NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood joked that the network got “scared” recently when video of Brees pushing a sled with the determination of someone who looked prepare to keep playing went viral

But Brees finally announced his long-anticipated retirement on the 15th anniversary of him signing with the Saints as a free agent after five seasons with the San Diego Chargers.

Brees said the idea of a broadcasting career hit him as the 2017 college football season was getting under way. The Saints had a weekend off before starting their season and Brees brought his family to Indianapolis to watch his alma mater, Purdue, playing Louisville.

He was asked to join the broadcast to talk about the upcoming Saints season and analyze the Boilermakers game.

“When I put those headphones on and watched the game from that vantage point the light bulb went on,” Brees said. “I walked away thinking, ‘I can do this, I would love this and I could be really good at this.’ That’s when I started taking it seriously.”

He also started taking retirement seriously, beginning with the end of the 2017 season. He nearly retired after the 2019 season, but decided to take another shot of leading the Saints to another Super Bowl after he led them to their only championship after the 2009 season.

“I think everybody probably felt like this would be my last year,” Brees said.

He added that in the last few years he tried to “stay in the moment,” appreciate “the little things” and “smell the roses.”

Brees, 42, recognized the potential that any game could be his last if he suffered a serious injury, and he did sustain the only two significant injuries during his Saints tenure in the last two seasons.

He acknowledged that the thumb injury that sidelined him for five games in 2019 and the broken ribs and punctured lung that cost him four games last season were “kind of a fluke” and not “a sign of getting old.”

Brees, who helped the Saints win the NFC South title each of the last four seasons, said “I’m sure I could have kept playing.” But the ages of his four young children (six to 12) was a significant factor in his decision to retire.

“I always thought I would feel it when it was time,” Brees said, “and it was time.”

And now it’s time for Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill to assume a new role as Brees’ successor under center for the Saints.

Brees used the word “phenomenal” to describe both Winston’s performance after Brees was injured in a win against San Francisco last season and Hill’s while going 3-1 as the starter in Brees’ absence.

“I can’t tell you how much fun we had in that quarterback room,” Brees said. “They’re both great human beings. We all love football and we all pushed each other and helped and supported one another for the good of the team.

“We’ll see how it plays out but I think they will bring out the best in each other.”

Brees sounded ready to adapt his rare degree of studying and preparation for playing football to analyzing it in his new career.

“I eat, sleep and breathe football,” he said. “I can continue to do that and show my passion for the game – only in a different way. I want to create as great a fan experience as I can. I want to help them see the game or a player or a team differently and come away entertained.”

Brees praised the talent at NBC “from the top to the bottom” and added “Being in the booth with Mike Tirico is as exciting to me as “throwing passes to Michael Thomas on Sundays.”

Finally, he was asked about his future involvement with the New Orleans community.

“We will always have a strong presence in New Orleans,” Brees said, citing the recent announcement about his involvement in possibly developing the former Six Flags property in New Orleans East.

“Three other things will slowly become public knowledge in the next few weeks and months,” Brees said. “I’m going to do all I can to continue to push New Orleans forward.”

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Les East

Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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