Drew Brees ain't out of the woods yet -- the QB still has "a ways to go" before he'll return to the field after breaking 11 ribs and suffering a punctured lung.
... so says New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton who told reporters the plan is to continue to be patient with Drew to make sure he can properly heal up.
41-year-old Brees has already missed 4 games due to the injuries -- which he reportedly suffered over the course of 2 games, Week 9 against the Bucs and Week 10 against the 49ers.
Payton was asked Wednesday if there was a chance Brees would be able to play on Sunday's Week 15 matchup against the Chiefs ... but that's seemingly out of the question.
"He's got a ways to go still, and he's someone we're not gonna just hurry back and just put him in the game," Payton said.
"I think the significance of the injuries are such that you've gotta make sure he can function and feel confident."
The good news ... Brees says he's making significant progress and hopes to be back soon.
"Each week I feel better," Brees told Cox Sports Television on Sunday night.
"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."
The Saints are 10-3 and still in 1st place in the NFC East.