NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the NFL’s leader in career completions and yards passing, has decided to retire after 20 NFL seasons, including his last 15 with New Orleans.
“Til the very end I exhausted myself to give everything to the Saints organization, my team and the great city of New Orleans,” Brees said in social media post on Sunday, 15 years to the day after he signed with the Saints.
“We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us,” Brees continued. “I am only retiring from football. I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye.”
The post also included a short video in which his four young children — the three boys wearing No. 9 Saints jerseys — exclaimed, “Our dad is finally going to retire so he can spend more time with us!”
The decision comes after the 42-year-old quarterback won nine of 12 regular-season starts while completing 70.5% of his passes in 2020, and then won a wild-card round playoff game before New Orleans’ season ended with a divisional-round loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.
Brees missed four games this season with multiple fractured ribs and a collapsed lung. It marked the second straight season Brees had to miss part of a season with an injury after missing just one game because of injury in the previous 13. In 2019, Brees missed five games because of a thumb injury on his throwing hand that required surgery.
Saints coach Sean Payton said Brees had plenty of other injuries or ailments during his Saints tenure, but willed himself to play through them whenever possible.
“Over the years his durability and availability is quite amazing. I can recall so many of these different injuries,” Payton said. “He’s as courageous and as tough a player as I’ve ever been around.”
Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, although that mark will be under threat next season by 44-year-old Tom Brady, who has 79,204 career yards passing. Brees’ 571 career touchdown passes rank second behind Brady’s 581.
Brees had dropped hints about his intentions, saying he considered himself to be on “borrowed time.” After his final game, he returned to the Superdome field in street clothes, embraced his wife, Brittany, and played catch with his children for nearly two hours. When Brady saw them on his way to the Tampa Bay bus, he stopped, chatted, threw passes to Brees children and hugged Brees before departing.