Column: Saints’ Drew Brees concerned thumb injury could keep him out a while

With his thumb wrapped, Saints quarterback Drew Brees watches from the sideline at the Coliseum on Sunday.
With his thumb wrapped, Saints quarterback Drew Brees watches from the sideline at the Coliseum on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The New Orleans Saints are trying to come to grips with the thought Drew Brees could be gone for a while.

Brees is trying to come to grips with something, anything.

As it is, the future Hall of Fame quarterback certainly can’t wrap his throwing hand around a football. He suffered an injury to his right thumb when it hit Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald as Brees was following through on a third-down pass.

That ended Brees’ Sunday. He stood mostly alone on the Saints sideline, tape swaddling his wrist and lower thumb, watching backup Teddy Bridgewater muddle through a 27-9 defeat.


A dejected Brees told reporters after the game that he already got X-rays and will meet with a hand specialist in Los Angeles “very soon.” The Saints are staying on the West Coast to prepare for next Sunday’s game at Seattle.

“It’s all up in the air at this point,” Brees said.

The Rams beat the Saints 27-9 in a rematch of last year’s NFC championship game after Saints Drew Brees sustains an injury to his throwing hand.

So are the Saints, whose season likely hinges on the health of their quarterback, who prior to Sunday had never left a game because of injury in his previous 13 seasons in New Orleans.

“I am concerned,” Brees conceded. “I’m hoping it’s not too significant.”

Add that to coach Sean Payton’s extensive list of concerns. He was fuming afterward, about everything from an officiating ruling that wiped out an apparent New Orleans touchdown, to his team’s 11 penalties, to an offensive line that fell apart like wet tissue.

“When we watch this tape tomorrow we’re going to be disappointed with tackling, disappointed with how we played offensively, particularly up front, penalties,” Payton said. “This will be a hard film to watch for guys.”

This was the third consecutive game that a controversial officiating decision has gone against the Saints, beginning with the no-call on pass interference against the Rams in last season’s NFC championship game, and continuing in last week’s opener against Houston, when the Saints bore the brunt of a timing miscue.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees makes is hit in the hand by Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald during Sunday's loss.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

While telling reporters he wasn’t interested in discussing the officiating, Payton still found a way to slip in a few stinging jabs.

“When we get poor officiating, or we get an awful call like that, we can’t control that,” he said.

The play in question came midway through the second quarter, as Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked to pass on third down from the New Orleans 11. At first glance — from some angles — it looked as if he might have thrown an incomplete pass, and officials initially ruled it that way, blowing their whistles to signal the ball dead.

Whereas some Rams stopped, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan scooped up the loose ball and returned it the length of the field to the end zone. He had seen it was a fumble, and Payton’s challenge revealed that. But because officials had blown the ball dead, it was spotted at the 13 for the Saints offense.

A microphone on the sideline picked up Jordan saying, “I ran 80 yards for nothing?”

“I didn’t even hear the whistle,” Jordan said. “I grabbed the ball 15, 20 yards down, and allegedly a whistle had blown where normally you let the play happen. Any Foot Locker … I mean, referee, tells you you let the play happen, and then you go back and review the play. That’s a 10-point swing right there.”

Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, confirmed to a pool reporter that officials are instructed to allow a play to fully unfold before blowing the whistle.

“In this situation of a pass/fumble as it pertains to the quarterback, mechanically and philosophically, we tell the referees to let it play out because we can always come back and make it an incomplete pass,” Riveron said. “As it happened here, we blow the whistle early, so the most we can do is give the ball to the defense with a clear recovery.”

Jordan referenced a 10-point swing because the Saints were stopped on fourth down on the ensuing drive, and the Rams closed the half with a field goal.

It was a bitter pill for the Saints, who are 1-3 against the Rams in the Sean McVay era, losing twice to the Rams at the Coliseum and splitting two games at the Superdome.

“I thought we got whipped up front,” Payton said.

New Orleans lost a receiver Keith Kirkwood to a hamstring injury in warmups, then Tre-Quan Smith during the game, meaning the Saints had only two healthy receivers down the stretch. They had to line up reserve quarterback Taysom Hill as the third receiver in the fourth quarter. It was that kind of day.

Then, there were the penalties.

“It’s hard to win a game when every positive play you have keeps coming back,” tackle Terron Armstead said.

Now, the Saints wait for their best player to come back. Nobody knows exactly when that will happen.