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Sean Payton: Saints may limit Drew Brees’ throws during practice week

Tony Dungy previews the exciting opening matchup for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers against Drew Brees and the Saints.

The Saints were eager to bring back 41-year-old quarterback Drew Brees.

But they’re not blind to the reality of having a 41-year-old quarterback.

During an appearance on CBS Sports Network, Saints coach Sean Payton was asked if Brees would be on any kind of “pitch count this year, and alluded to the possibility of modifying his practice workload.

“I don’t think a pitch count relative to in the regular season games,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Certainly during the week of practice. For the last couple of years, Wednesday’s been a down day. He’s rested his arm. I know last year there was five weeks he didn’t play and then he came back playing extremely well.

“I understand the question, a lot of people have mentioned that. I just think in our game with 16 games, a little bit different than maybe basketball or baseball or even hockey. The value of each game is such, I think most importantly for us, it’s training camp and even during the work week and modifying maybe even Thursday. So the pitch count for us would be up until the game itself, but it wouldn’t include a regular season game.”

Even with five weeks off with a thumb injury last year, there was a noticeable difference in Brees’ arm strength last year. But there’s generally a difference in arm strength for every quarterback as he ages, and that difference becomes more important as seasons go on.

That makes limiting Brees’ reps in practice — even on heavy game-planning Thursday as Payton mentioned — a smart thing. There’s a side benefit of getting more work for Taysom Hill (and to a lesser degree Jameis Winston), but the real hope is that “modifying” his midweek work will leave more in his arm for games in January or perhaps February, when they matter most.