Friday’s NFL: Payton says Saints plan to start Brees against Chiefs

Brett Martel
Associated Press

New Orleans — Saints record-setting quarterback Drew Brees “looked good” in his first practices since returning from rib fractures and a punctured lung, and is slated to start against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, coach Sean Payton said.

“We went off how it felt as he went through a full practice week. And he’s done a good job,” Payton said after Friday’s practice.

Drew Brees

Brees has missed four games since his injury, which occurred when he was sacked against San Francisco.

Taysom Hill has started in Brees’ place, going 3-1. Even before Brees’ injury, Hill would intermittently take snaps under center to provide New Orleans’ with a change-of-pace, read-option QB. So he could continue to see snaps at QB as well.

“We have a number of personnel groupings to give us some flexibility and we’ll go from there,” Payton said.

Payton said Brees would be wearing a protective vest over his torso, but the coach dismissed the idea that the Saints were rushing the 41-year-old QB back from injury.

“We wouldn’t be playing him if he wasn’t healthy and able to function and feeling good and recovered,” Payton said.

Brees is the NFL’s career leader in yards passing with 79,612. He has 565 TD passes to rank second behind only one active QB, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who has 571.

The Saints (10-3) enter the weekend tied atop the NFC with Green Bay, but the Packers would own the tie-breaker for the No. 1 playoff seeding — and the only playoff bye — in the conference by virtue of a Week 3 victory in New Orleans.

Garrett's COVID battle

Myles Garrett still hasn’t completely recovered from being sacked by COVID-19.

Cleveland’s star defensive end has played two games since missing two with the virus and said that he’s not all the way back.

“I’m trying. Still doing breathing treatments and still doing conditioning on my own,” he said. “I’m feeling better each day.”

A fitness buff and a player often called “a physical freak” by teammates and opponents, Garrett wishes those who dispute the seriousness of the pandemic or the severity of the illness would use his case as an example that it’s very real.

“I do not think anybody should think they are the bulletproof or just because you are asymptomatic that it will not have any effect on you down the line,” he said. “This is something new that nobody has ever seen before.”

Garrett’s only 24, a supreme athlete in the prime of his life and coronavirus flattened him. When he returned a few weeks back, he said the illness “kicked my butt.”

He wishes others weren’t so dismissive or doubtful about its severity.

“People are so caught up in conspiracies and trying to downplay it that they do not actually see that it can be serious in different ways,” he said Friday on a Zoom calls as the Browns (9-4) prepared to face the New York Giants (5-8) on Sunday night. “Talk about how there are not many cases of people dying from it, but that is not all it is about.

“There are cases of people having the mental illnesses just as an effect of COVID, heart problems, lung issues and being hospitalized for days and weeks on end. There are so many things that come with being diagnosed with COVID or testing positive for COVID. You have to take it seriously.”

Niners’ stay extended

The San Francisco 49ers will finish out the regular season practicing and playing home games in Arizona after a ban on contact sorts in their home county was extended into January.

The Niners relocated to Arizona at the beginning of December after Santa Clara County announced a three-week ban on contact sports games and practices to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. That ban was initially supposed to be lifted on Dec. 21 but now has been extended until at least Jan. 8, meaning San Francisco’s home game Jan. 3 against Seattle will be played in Arizona.

The 49ers were expecting to be forced to stay in Arizona for the rest of the season and made plans for many families of players, coaches and staff to join them next week for Christmas.

The 49ers arrived in Arizona on Dec. 2 and began practicing the next day. The team is staying at a hotel near the Arizona Cardinals stadium in Glendale, where they are playing their home games. There also are practice fields close by, keeping the team in a contained area.

After winning at Los Angeles against the Rams in their final game before relocating, the Niners (5-8) have lost twice at their new home to Buffalo and Washington the past two weeks to put a major dent in their playoff chances.

San Francisco travels to Dallas on Sunday before playing a road game on Dec. 26 against the Cardinals in the stadium the teams are currently sharing. The Week 17 game against the Seahawks wraps up the schedule.

Haskins gets nod

Dwayne Haskins is set to start at quarterback for Washington on Sunday against Seattle because starter Alex Smith is out with a right calf injury.

Coach Ron Rivera ruled out Smith and standout rookie running back Antonio Gibson and named Haskins the starter. Smith had hoped to play despite not taking part in full practices this week.

“Getting to watch him do some of his movements and some of the things he was going to have to do in the game, he still felt a little tight,” Rivera said.

Haskins will be making his first start since a Week 4 loss to Baltimore. The 2019 first-round pick relieved Smith in Washington’s most recent game against San Francisco.

Rivera benched Haskins after four starts and initially turned to Kyle Allen. After Allen got injured, Smith started an NFL game for the first time since 2018. Washington is 4-1 since Smith took over.

Personnel dept.

The Jaguars could be without both starting cornerbacks at Baltimore on Sunday. Coach Doug Marrone ruled out Sidney Jones on because of an Achilles tendon injury and wasn’t sure whether Tre Herndon will be cleared in time to make the trip. Herndon was placed on the COVID-19 list Wednesday.

... The Dolphins top-three pass catchers DeVante Parker (hamstring), Mike Gesicki (shoulder) and Jakeem Grant (hamstring) were listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots.