MANDEVILLE, La. -- Drew Brees doesn't appear to be showing any rust after his two-week hiatus to rest a strained oblique.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback has looked sharp in practice this week -- especially Wednesday night. Brees threw a handful of nice touchdown passes during full-team red zone drills, including a hard strike right in receiver Robert Meachem's breadbasket. However, one of Brees' passes intended for Jimmy Graham was rejected by the star of Wednesday's practice, safety Jairus Byrd.
Brees even took off scrambling for a long gain up the middle at one point.
After practice, Saints coach Sean Payton confirmed the obvious -- that Brees is indeed "ready to go" for Saturday night's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Brees is expected to play about a half, which would be his typical workload in a third preseason game.
"I thought he looked pretty sharp tonight. There were a handful of throws that were exceptional," said Payton, who pointed out the way Brees was gradually increasing his workload off to the side during practice over the past two weeks. "I think we've handled it the right way, and he is pretty smart and he knew where he was at. My only concern was [whether] we had set our mind on a game maybe, and that really shouldn't dictate his healing.
"Now, it happened to be that he feels ready to go. I'm sure he's going to play, and we'll figure out how many snaps in this game. But he looked pretty sharp tonight."
Brees echoed that sentiment after Thursday's practice, which was a glorified walk-through session focused on preparing for the Colts.
"I don't know (if I had to) shake off the rust. But just anytime you're coming off an injury that was directly related to you throwing, there's this ramp-up that takes place," Brees said. "So obviously I didn't want to push it too hard, too fast, because I didn't want to take any unnecessary chances with it. So just kind of that progression, each day, of , 'OK, I can do a little bit more, I can kick up the volume, kick up the intensity.'
"I'd say the first day or two you're a little bit, 'Ah, how's it feeling?' on every throw. Then after a while you're just like, 'C'mon man, forget it, just play ball.' And I'm at that stage right now, just playing ball."
Brees stressed that he wants to play well Saturday against the Colts because it likely will wind up being the only preseason game he plays in.
"It is important, it is important," Brees said of Saturday's game. "I want to play well, I want to get out there and feel comfortable. I feel like this week has been great just to get back out and feel like I'm throwing the ball like I should. And now it's just time to take it to the game field and go through this final dress rehearsal before the season."
Brees also will get the chance to shave the goatee he has been sporting lately. Brees said he decided to grow it until he played again.
"So it's getting shaved off pretty soon," Brees said.