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Drew Brees felt “it was time” to retire, ready to begin new chapter with NBC

Jameis Winston is returning to the Saints on an incentive-heavy one-year deal, and Mike Florio and Chris Simms believe this made too much sense for both sides.

Drew Brees gave even those at NBC Sports “pause” when his trainer, Todd Durkin, posted video of the former Saints quarterback pushing a weighted sled. As it turned out, though, Brees simply was waiting until an anniversary to announce his retirement from football.

Brees made his departure from the NFL official Sunday, which was 15 years to the day he initially signed with the Saints as a free agent.

On Wednesday, NBC Sports held a 30-minute news conference with Brees, who will work both as an NFL analyst on Football Night in America and as a game analyst for Notre Dame football.

“There is a transition from playing the game to going and doing anything else, because you can’t replicate the locker room and you can’t replicate running out of the tunnel,” Brees said. “There are just moments and feelings and emotions that are really, really hard to replicate after you’ve been a professional football player. Now, I think the great thing about the opportunity that I have is: No. 1 I transition from one incredible team to another incredible team with NBC, the best of the best. . . . I am as excited to be in the booth with Mike Tirico as I was to throw passes to Michael Thomas on Sunday, and I’m dead serious when I saw that. I get to talk about the game of football. I get to eat, sleep and breath the game of football still. I get to show my love and passion for the game still, but just in a different way. That certainly will help ease the transition for me.”

Brees, 42, called his decision to call it quits a difficult one, but it’s one he is at peace with.

“Ever since the 2017 season, I have truly approached each season like it could be my last, and I’ve approached the offseason that way and I’ve approached each and every game during the season that way,” Brees said. “There was no additional pressure with that, because I really tried to play every game like it was the Super Bowl, like it was the most important game of the season. So my preparation was always the same. It was always consistent. I always wanted to put my absolute best on the field every time out. What I started to do was maybe just enjoy some of the little things a bit more. So the bus rides home, the plane rides home, the locker room after, just smell the roses so to speak and really just stay in the moment and enjoy it, and knowing that if something happened where all of a sudden it was an injury or whatever, and that was my last game, then I know I poured everything I could into it. I just approached each year for the last four or five years that way, with that mindset. I feel like that served me well, and I think played some of my best football during that time.

“At the end of the day, the factors that go into this are, I’ve always said as long as I can play the game at a high level; I’m having fun doing it; and I’m able to stay healthy, then this is something I’ll do forever. Obviously, I’ve had some injuries the last two years that have been frustrating. Both of them kind of freak things. I don’t think they were injuries that were saying I was getting old. But nonetheless, I had the thumb that ruled me five games two years ago, and then had the ribs and the lung that holds me out for four games this past year. Could I keep playing? Yeah, I’m sure I could. But I’m also looking at my kids, my family, the age of my kids, and just gauging all of those things. There’s a balance there. I also just felt like I would just feel it. I would feel when it was time. I felt that it was time.”