Drew Brees set to return to practice for Saints, calls Week 8 return 'a goal'

CHICAGO -- Drew Brees said he plans to return to practice this week and hopes to be able to play as early as next Sunday's Week 8 home date with the Arizona Cardinals.

"We'll see how it goes. I'd love to [play]. It's a goal," Brees told ESPN after the New Orleans Saints won their fifth straight game without him on Sunday at Chicago.

When asked if he considers it a realistic goal, based on the medical evaluations of his thumb injury and how he has felt throwing the ball in recent weeks, Brees said, "I hope so."

FOX Sports' Erin Andrews first reported during Sunday's broadcast that Saints coach Sean Payton said the "goal" is to get Brees back against Arizona next week, and "if he's healthy, you play him."

Andrews later added that Payton said the Saints could bring Brees back as the backup behind Teddy Bridgewater, which would allow third-string quarterback Taysom Hill to be used at tight end.

But when asked about the FOX report after the game, Payton said it was "incorrect" and refused to discuss any specifics about Brees' status.

"I'll fill you guys in day by day. We're not targeting ... We're gonna see how he's doing. And we'll give you the news when we feel like we're ready to," Payton said.

When someone started to ask a follow-up question, Payton said, "Again, I'm not even discussing it. Sorry."

Brees has been sidelined since he suffered a thumb injury on his right throwing hand in Week 2. He had surgery Sept. 18 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament, and the initial prognosis for his recovery was six to eight weeks -- which Brees vowed to try to beat.

Brees posted a video of himself throwing a smaller-sized football less than three weeks after his surgery. He said he began throwing a regulation-sized football more than a week ago. He has attended practices regularly and done some individual work, but he has not yet participated in full-team drills.

The Saints (6-1) have a bye in Week 9. If Brees does not return this week, the soonest he can return is Week 10 at home against the rival Atlanta Falcons.