Saints quarterback Drew Brees told ESPN's Ed Werder that on Monday he flew on to Birmingham, Ala., where he met with orthopedic surgeon James Andrews for a comprehensive evaluation of his injured passing shoulder.
Brees also engaged in an extensive rehab session in Birmingham with the same therapist, Kevin Wilk, who helped him recover from the original major surgery Andrews performed on his shoulder following the 2005 season.
Brees said the results of the exam were positive, even more so than he expected. He said he will continue to aggressively incorporate Wilk's rehab protocol for this injury.
Brees bruised, but did not tear his rotator cuff when his passing arm was coming forward and the motion abruptly stopped as he was contacted by a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defender in Week 2.
Whether Brees returns to start for the 0-3 Saints at home Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys will be determined by the progress he experiences this week.
"I'm literally day to day right now," Brees said. "But I'm making progress."
Brees expressed the same combination of optimism and uncertainty in a Sunday night interview with Cox Sports Television, saying, "I plan to and expect to start on Sunday." But he labeled himself as "day-to-day" and said he will need to be able to make all the throws he is required to make in the Saints offense.
Earlier Monday, Sean Payton said he is "optimistic" that Brees will be able to return for the Saints' Week 4 home game, but it's a decision that will be made later in the week.
"The one thing that's certain is the day-to-day progress that he's made," Payton said. "So I would say optimistic, and we'll just pay attention to his symptoms and his strength.
"I don't know that there's more clarity [than last week]. The thing that's positive is the progress daily."
Payton cited a lack of velocity on his passes when ruling Brees out last Friday and appointing Like McCown the starter against the Panthers.
Payton said the team didn't even know as of last Wednesday or Thursday whether Brees would be able to play. But once the decision became clear on Friday morning, Payton said he decided to announce it early to eliminate any possible distraction for the team.
"It was also a chance for our players to: 'Hey, here we go. This is gonna be [Luke McCown's] opportunity to play well for us,'" Payton said. "And we just felt like it was the smart thing to do at the end of the week."
Brees initially suffered pain and weakness in the shoulder while finishing the game against Tampa Bay and said the injury affected his ability to throw.
Information from ESPN's Mike Triplett and Chris Mortensen was used in this report.