Sean Payton: Drew Brees return depends on how week goes

METAIRIE, La. -- Sean Payton said the decision on Drew Brees' status for Sunday's marquee matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs will come down to how the New Orleans Saints quarterback feels during practice this week.

"It's pretty simple. It's just functionality, strength, throwing without soreness," Payton said Thursday morning after Brees was designated to return to practice on Wednesday. "I mean, there's a process, and last week with the trainers he had one throwing day, then yesterday the same way. So it's really [whether Brees is] asymptomatic, feeling good, strong and like he can function and be an asset and play well."

When asked if the team is waiting for further clearance from doctors, Payton said, "No. I think everyone's monitoring. Pay attention to it all. We'll just see how this week goes."

Brees has missed the past four games after suffering 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung. The Saints (10-3) have gone 3-1 in his absence with Taysom Hill starting at quarterback.

Payton has emphasized that the Saints won't rush Brees back, and he said Wednesday afternoon that Brees "has got a ways to go still" in his recovery. But the signs have been positive so far, and Brees described himself as "close" this past Sunday night.

"Each week I feel better," Brees said in his weekly interview with Cox Sports Television after Sunday's 24-21 loss at Philadelphia. "I obviously have a plan in place as to the benchmarks that I need to hit in order to get to where I know that I can play and play effectively for this team. And all I can say is I'm close.

"There's a recovery element, there's a strength element. And I'll know when that time comes."

Brees was officially designated to return from injured reserve on Wednesday, which meant that he could resume practicing and that the team now has a three-week window to return him to the active 53-man roster. He can be activated at any time during that window.

The Saints will have two games in six days over the next week, since they are scheduled to host the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day.

Brees, 41, has a history of beating the doctors' projected timetables when recovering from injuries -- something he has always taken pride in. However, he showed that he has a limit when he let Payton know that he was physically unable to continue during halftime of the Saints' Week 10 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Brees suffered the punctured lung and some of the broken ribs with eight minutes remaining in the first half of that game, but he stayed in to complete two touchdown drives. Doctors believe the rest of his broken ribs occurred a week earlier.