Saints QB Brees confident he'll be able to play vs. Panthers

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints quarterback Drew Brees took the field wearing his usual red No. 9 practice jersey with shoulder pads on underneath.

If not for the fact that he didn't throw a pass, there would have been no obvious indication that he is in a race to recover from a bruised rotator cuff by Sunday, when New Orleans tries to avoid dropping to 0-3 at Carolina.

''I have every intention of playing, but I do have to take it day-to-day,'' Brees said after practice Wednesday.

''Obviously you're dealing with something where you've got to be smart because you don't want to aggravate it, reinjure it, hurt it more, make it worse. So there's a balance to what we're doing here in regards to rehab and recovery and rest.''

Brees' injury further complicates matters for the Saints' offense, which has performed below the elite standard it has met since coach Sean Payton and the franchise's all-time leading passer joined the franchise in 2006.

The Saints, who averaged 411 yards and three TDs per game last season, have averaged about 366 yards and two TDs per game through Week 2 of this season.

Brees was hurt on a hit in the second quarter of last Sunday's 26-19 loss at home to Tampa Bay. He never left the game, finishing 24 of 38 for 255 yards and one touchdown.

Saints right tackle and offensive captain Zach Strief said he couldn't argue with anyone who says the Saints' offense hasn't been as potent as usual.

''I don't blame anyone for pointing out things that are true and verifiable,'' Strief said. ''We have to move the ball on first and second down and stay out of these situations where we're third-and-10. ... We haven't done enough of that the first two weeks and we've got to get it straightened out.''

But Brees asserted that the Saints' offense has ''the opportunity to do a lot of great things here in the near future.''

''We have all the guys to do it,'' Brees said. ''It's just a matter of just coming together, and if you have a little success, if you can start to lock in on some of the things you can be really good at, I think then we'll start cooking.''

Brees, listed as ''limited'' on Wednesday's injury report, hasn't missed a start because of injury since joining New Orleans in 2006. Carolina safety Roman Harper, Brees' former teammate in New Orleans, said he'll believe Brees isn't playing ''when I see it.''

Carolina cornerback Charles Tillman added that uncertainty surrounding Brees ''doesn't change our preparation.''

''Not at all,'' Tillman continued. ''The minute you doubt Drew Brees, you've lost.''

If Brees sits, the starter will be veteran Luke McCown, who happens to be part of a new national advertising campaign in which he touts how good the backup systems of a mobile phone system would work if they only had the chance.

''Luke is a very capable, great backup - love his commercial as a matter of fact,'' Harper said, adding that McCown has ''a big-time arm.''

''I wouldn't expect too many things to change,'' Harper said. ''Maybe he would take more shots downfield.''

Coincidentally, McCown's brother, Josh, was selected as the starter in Cleveland this week over Johnny Manziel.

Luke McCown has been Brees' backup for two seasons, playing only as a holder on field goals and attempting one pass - an incompletion - on a fake.

''If you go back to his days in Tampa Bay, he had a win here in the dome,'' Payton said, referring to a game in 2007. ''He is a very good athlete. I think he is sharp, so he processes the information quickly.''

Brees said that although he did not throw during Wednesday's practice, he was on the field studying each play. He is also performing rehabilitation that is related to throwing, he said, and called renowned throwing consultant Tom House to discuss how his injury might affect his mechanics.

Brees added that he and Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who repaired the Saints QB's shoulder before the 2006 season, are ''on the same page as far as my route to recovery, and if and when I play on Sunday, we'll both be good with that.''

Notes: Saints receiver Brandin Cooks (ankle), safety Jairus Byrd (knee), cornerback Keenan Lewis (hip), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (toe) and right guard Jahri Evans all were listed as missing practice during full 11-on-11 drills Wednesday. However, Byrd, Lewis and Ellerbe participated in an earlier portion of practice open to reporters.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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AP Sports Writer Steve Reed contributed to this report from Charlotte, North Carolina.

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This story corrects an earlier version which listed the Saints' average yards passing as the club's average net yards.

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