Drew Brees Opens Up About Knowing 'It Was Time' to Retire from the NFL: 'There's a Balance'

Drew Brees also told NBC Sports in a Wednesday news conference that he's excited to "transition from one incredible team to another incredible team"

Drew Brees
Drew Brees. Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Drew Brees is opening up more about why he decided to officially retire from the NFL after two decades of playing in the league.

The now-former New Orleans Saints quarterback, 42, spoke about his decision in an NBC Sports news conference on Wednesday, touching on his injuries over the last two seasons and how a lot went into his choice to walk away from the game he loves.

"I had the thumb that ruled me five games two years ago, and then had the ribs and the lung that [held] me out for four games this past year," said Brees. "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."

Added Super Bowl XLIV's Most Valuable Player, "I also just felt like I would just feel it — I would feel when it was time. I felt that it was time."

While Brees doesn't think his injuries were ones "that were saying I was getting old" ("Both of them [were] kind of freak things," he noted), "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," he explained.

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Drew Brees
Drew Brees and son Baylen at Super Bowl XLIV. Ronald Martinez/Getty
The 2015 Pepsi Rookie Of The Year Award Ceremony And Pharrell Concert At Pepsi Super Friday Night At Pier 70 In San Francisco
Drew Brees and wife Brittany. Steve Jennings/Getty

Brees, who had been with the Saints for 15 years under head coach Sean Payton, announced his retirement last Sunday.

The following morning, the father of four revealed to the Today show's Hoda Kotb that he has his next gig already lined up: He's joining NBC Sports as a football analyst.

And while his career in football will take place off the field now, he gave it his all until his final showdown against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this past January.

"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 Wednesday during the news conference. "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," he explained. "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."

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Brees insists he "just approached each year for the last four or five years that way, with that mindset," adding, "I feel like that served me well, and I think [I] played some of my best football during that time."

He also discussed how he is planning to handle the "transition from playing the game" into becoming a sports analyst, "because you can't replicate the locker room and you can't replicate running out of the tunnel."

"There are just moments and feelings and emotions that are really, really hard to replicate after you've been a professional football player," the celebrated quarterback said.

But on the bright side, "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," Brees shared. "I am as excited to be in the booth with Mike Tirico as I was to throw passes to Michael Thomas on Sundays, and I'm dead serious when I [say] that."

"I get to talk about the game of football," he mused. "I get to eat, sleep and breathe 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."

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