Drew Brees Knew He Was Retiring Before 2020 Season; Considered It 2-3 Years Prior

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 6, 2021

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 17: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints warms up prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 17, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Longtime New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees knew the 2020 season would be his last, and retirement was something he'd started to consider "probably two, three years ago."

Brees told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk on PFT PM that he got a "big kick" out of the speculation he was preparing to continue his career after his trainer, Todd Durkin, posted a short video of him working out in February without any context:

“He posted that and he texted me, 'Watch what this stirs up.' It was pretty funny. I knew I was retiring. It was something I've been thinking about at this stage in your career. I think it's — you really don't know what that feeling's going to be like, right? You love the game, it's been such a big part of your life for so long. You know you can play at a high level still and you're obviously trying to achieve a goal which is to go win another championship. At the same time, I think you also recognize the balance of life and the fact that, listen, I've got four kids that are not so small anymore.”

Brees played at a high level in recent years, including 24 touchdowns and six interceptions across 12 games in 2020, but injuries became a bigger factor. He missed five contests in 2019 with a thumb injury and four last season with broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

The two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year told Florio the thoughts about his future starting creeping in ahead of the 2017 season. He set out to enjoy his final years by making sure he soaked in the environment around him more than he'd done at the peak of his career:

"I'm going to pour everything I can into it. I'm also going to take the extra time that maybe I haven't in the past to just enjoy the little things. Like enjoy the locker room a little more. Maybe when I would've gone and done something else, I'm going to stay in the locker room and play a ping pong game with some of the guys and build a camaraderie. I'm going to enjoy the plane rides home a little bit more. I'm going to do all those things that maybe are a little bit different than what I normally would've done just to soak it all in. Just to enjoy it."

Brees guided the Saints to the playoffs in each of his final four seasons, including a trip to the NFC Championship Game in 2018, but they could never get back to the Super Bowl after winning it in 2009. That didn't stop the quarterback from enjoying the end of his playing career:

"I had more fun playing football than I ever had in my career those last couple years. We had a great team. We had a great nucleus. We had great leadership. That was a huge part of that. It was that one-year approach. It really was. I would say going into even '19 season it was like, 'Alright this may be it.' When I decided to come back in '20, I knew that was it."

The 42-year-old Dallas native told Florio the decision to walk away became easier with the offer from NBC Sports to work on its NFL and college football coverage while still having far more family time:

"I think the opportunity to work with NBC and be involved with both the college and the NFL game still fuels that passion for the game and that love for the game and just redirected in a different way. At the same time, it gives me the time with my family that I want and desire. To be as big a part of their lives as I can, especially with sports. All my boys love to play sports just like dad did when he was growing up. It's probably one of my greatest joys in life is to watch my kids play ball. When you are committed to being an NFL quarterback, that consumes you. ... That's the balance. At some point, that becomes the chapter in the past and you look forward to the chapter in the future which for me is so much centered around my family."

Brees, who announced his retirement in March, is a lock for Hall of Fame induction following a 20-year career that featured 13 Pro Bowl selections, the most passing yards in NFL history (80,358) and numerous other accolades and records.

Meanwhile, the Saints will move forward with a competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to fill the void left by perhaps the most accurate passer to ever step on a football field.