METAIRIE, La. (AP) Drew Brees' return to the New Orleans Saints' lineup seemingly will come sooner than later, even if the club's all-time passer isn't quite ready to guarantee he'll be back under center against Dallas on Sunday night.
Brees said he took most of the snaps at Wednesday's practice, ''and obviously felt good - good enough to do that.''
''I feel really good about Sunday,'' he added. ''I'll see how the shoulder responds tomorrow and for the rest of the day, but each day I'm able to do more and more and feel stronger and stronger.''
Brees expressed confidence last week that he would be able to play in Carolina, but ultimately missed last Sunday's 27-22 loss to the Panthers, which dropped New Orleans to 0-3.
This week holds more promise for Brees' return, if only because he and coach Sean Payton both said the quarterback's participation at practice is far more typical than last week, when backup Luke McCown handled first-team snaps.
''It's going to be safe to say he's going to throw every day now,'' Payton said, adding that Brees has ''done well'' with his rehabilitation of a bruised rotator cuff and improved his shoulder strength.
''All that has been positive,'' the coach added.
Brees was hurt when he was hit while attempting to throw against Tampa Bay on Sept. 20.
While Brees didn't go into detail about what types of throws he attempted during closed portions of Wednesday's practice, he indicated that he wasn't going to push himself unnecessarily to throw deep too early.
''I was going to temper my enthusiasm ... be smart and make sure that it's one of these ramp-ups and it's not zero to 60,'' Brees said.
Brees said pain is not an issue in his recovery and was not last week, because that is something he can overcome.
''It was really about how functional could I be, being required to do the things that I know I need to do to put us in the best position to succeed?'' Brees said. He added that he endorsed the club's decision to announce McCown as the starter last Friday because he ''didn't want to drag that thing out and keep everyone else in this building wondering what was going to happen.''
Brees said he would take the same approach this week if he doesn't feel ready to play by Friday, rather than waiting and hoping he'll feel significantly better during warm-ups Sunday night.
The Saints were generally pleased by the way McCown performed in Carolina, where he completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards. But McCown did not complete any deep passes or throw a touchdown pass, and his last pass to the end zone, with the game on the line, was intercepted.
Payton said McCown's performance would have no bearing on Brees' timeline for returning. All that matters is whether Brees is fit enough to play, the coach said.
Brees opened the season by passing for 355 yards and a touchdown in a loss at Arizona. He never left the game against Tampa Bay after he was initially injured in the second quarter, finishing with 255 yards and one TD.
Notes: Cornerback Keenan Lewis, who was listed as limited in Wednesday's practice, said, ''I'm up. I'm going,'' when asked if he expected to play this week. Listed with a hip injury, Lewis has not played since New Orleans' third preseason game. ... Defensive end Cameron Jordan (back) and right guard Jahri Evans (knee) both missed Wednesday's practice. ... Safety Jairus Byrd, who did not practice throughout training camp because of complications from knee surgery last season, practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday. ''I'm definitely looking forward to getting back out there. We'll see how this week goes,'' said Byrd, who has played in only four games for New Orleans since the club signed the former Pro Bowl defender as a free agent in 2014. ''I'm as frustrated as anyone else but I'm just taking it in stride.''
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