Drew Brees on Tom Brady's Retirement: 'Felt Like He Might Play Forever'

"He was continuing to play at such a high level for so long," the retired quarterback tells PEOPLE

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 08: Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history Drew Brees (9) of the Saints and Tom Brady (12) of the Buccaneers share a few words of encouragement after the regular season game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 08, 2020 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tom Brady (right) and Drew Brees (left) greet each other on the field. Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Drew Brees is commending Tom Brady on his decision to retire, calling it a "healthy" move by his fellow quarterback.

The retired New Orleans Saints star, 44, opened up about Brady's decision to step back from the NFL in a new interview with PEOPLE, as part of his Lowe's Home Team partnership ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

"We've had a lot of conversations over the last few years, and the way his career was going, you felt like he might play forever," Brees said of Brady's retirement. "He was continuing to play at such a high level for so long. Really, really unbelievable."

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Butch Dill/AP/Shutterstock (11713996bn) New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees left, speaks with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady after an NFL divisional round playoff football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in New Orleans. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won 30-20 Buccaneers Saints Football, New Orleans, United States - 17 Jan 2021
Tom Brady (right) and Drew Brees (left) speak on the field in casual attire. Butch Dill/AP/Shutterstock

"I know the grind that that is," he continued. "Especially as you get later in your career — and as much as you love the game, as much as you feel like you might still be able to play the game, you also have that pull to your kids, to your family, and to feeling like it's maybe the right time to step away."

"So obviously, he made that decision, and I think it's very wise to take time to just step away...That's the thing. It's a healthy thing."

Brees and Brady, 45, have a lot of overlapping history in the NFL — from their years duking it out as opponents on the field, to a wholesome game of catch Brady played with Brees' kids back in 2021. Brees himself ended his time in the league in 2021 after two decades, just two years before Brady made the latest announcement that he'd be retiring "for good" this month after 23 seasons in the NFL.

Brees also told PEOPLE what he learned from his single season serving as an analyst for NBC Sports following his retirement, and explained that "if you want to be great at anything, you have to work at it."

"I had a chance to work with some incredible people at NBC who I think are the best in the business, but at the end of the day, I was missing every weekend of my kids' sports, and I wasn't able to coach them like I wanted to," Brees said of his broadcasting stint. "And I just felt like at this stage in my life and in their life, I don't want to miss those moments. So I chose to step away."

"I feel like I laid the groundwork to be able to go back and do it in the future, if I want to," he continued. "I felt like I developed a great skillset with a lot of different things — broadcasting, sideline work, studio work. So I think the opportunity will be there if I want to go back to it."

Brady, too, will be giving broadcasting a go with his own upcoming gig in the Fox Sports' NFL broadcast booth — which he'll be waiting to start in 2024.

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers speaks to the media after losing to the Dallas Cowboys 31-14 in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida.
Tom Brady. Julio Aguilar/Getty

Brees' days on the field may be over, but the numbers he put up will always remain. Speaking on Patrick Mahomes breaking his record for most total offensive yards in a single season, the retired QB stated that "records are made to be broken."

Last month, the Kansas City Chiefs player broke Brees' record with an impressive 5,614 total yards — 5,250 yards passing, 358 yards rushing and six yards receiving.

"Just like there were plenty of records that we had a chance to break throughout my career when I was a part of the New Orleans Saints and had the chance to see a lot of my teammates break," Brees noted. "They're made to be broken."

"The difference now is that your guys are playing 17 games. There was a time when the NFL was playing 14 games. So in my opinion, there should be records for 14 games," he continued. "There should be records for 16 games. There should be records for 17 games, because obviously it's not an apples-to-apples comparison if they played that number of games."

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As for Mahomes' Super Bowl match-up on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, Brees predicted to PEOPLE that he's "going to light it up."

Brees, as he explained, is also currently the GM of Lowe's Home Team, and opened up about the company's NFL partnership and commitment to funding $100 million worth of community projects over the next five years.

He calls it an "an incredible, incredible campaign," having worked on such projects in the Lower Ninth Ward area of New Orleans — including one with LowerNine.org, which is working to build affordable housing and work spaces.

"It's a great, great campaign, tons of former and current NFL players that are involved, serving their communities," he said. "A lot of great work's being done."

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