Brees suffers torn labrum, faces four-month rehab

SAN DIEGO -- The Chargers' decision on Drew Brees' future
became much cloudier Monday when the quarterback said he needs
surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

Brees dislocated his right shoulder in a home loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday, and an MRI on Sunday revealed the torn cartilage.

The fifth-year pro plans to travel Tuesday to Birmingham, Ala.,
to get a second opinion from orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews,
and would like to have surgery this week.

"Obviously I'd like to get this thing operated on as soon as
possible," Brees said. "We're all very optimistic. The doctors
are very optimistic, saying that this is something that they've
seen before, done before. It shouldn't be a big deal."

Brees anticipates a four-month rehab, which means he should be
ready for minicamp.

The Chargers (9-7) missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10

Before Brees throws another pass, though, the Chargers must
decide whether to give him a long-term deal or once again slap him
with the "franchise" tag, which would keep him around for one
more year at close to $10 million. The deadline for designating
franchise players is Feb. 23.

General manager A.J. Smith didn't return calls for the second
straight day, and the Chargers didn't make anyone from the front
office available to comment about Brees. Trainer James Collins also
was off-limits.

"I'm not allowed to talk to the media about any injuries,"
Collins said.

Asked if it's more or less likely that the Chargers will give
him the long-term deal he wants, Brees said: "I think it's the
same situation. In my mind, I feel like I'm going to come back
better than ever after this deal. I wouldn't even call it a
setback. It's an opportunity for me to just get going a little bit
earlier than expected, rehabbing and working out, and making sure
when I come back I'm better than I was when I went in."

After Brees led them to a 12-4 record and the AFC West title in
2004, the Chargers made him their "franchise" player, keeping him
around for one year at $8 million.

Backup quarterback Philip Rivers, who's played sparingly in two
seasons, has four years remaining on his contract. The Chargers say
they have the room under the salary cap to keep Brees and Rivers
again next year.

Rivers looked rusty when he replaced Brees on Saturday, although he
did lead the Chargers on their only scoring drive of the game.

"I think with this shoulder or not, I think you all will be
asking the same questions," Brees told reporters. "Who knows
what's going to happen? And I don't. I just worry about the things
I can control, and right now it's taking care of this thing. But I
truly believe I'm going to get better and better every year."

Actually, Brees regressed from his Pro Bowl year of 2004, when
he threw for 3,159 yards and 27 touchdowns, with only seven
interceptions, for a team-record passer rating of 104.8, which was
third-best in the NFL.

He threw for 3,576 yards this year, but had fewer touchdowns,
24, and more than twice as many interceptions, 15. His rating
dropped to 89.2, 10th in the league.

Brees was hurt late in the second quarter Saturday. He dropped
back to pass in his end zone and was blindsided by safety John
Lynch, who knocked the ball loose. Brees dived for the ball and
defensive tackle Gerard Warren landed on him.

"In order for it to be dislocated, some other things are going
to have to give way. The labrum was the thing that kind of gave
way," Brees said.

Brees said he probably shouldn't have dived for the ball, "just
because you know guys are going to take shots at you. But being in
the situation in the game, the last thing I wanted them to do was
recover that fumble, especially recover it in the end zone. When
you're in the heat of the battle you don't have time to think about

Although the Chargers had been eliminated from the playoff
picture a week earlier, they played their starters in an attempt to
get their 10th victory.

"I absolutely should have been in the game because we were
trying to win that football game," Brees said. "I'm the starting
quarterback and I need to be in there to help us win. No doubt in
my mind."