Michael Thomas last played in the Saints’ loss to the Buccaneers during the 2021 NFL postseason. He failed to record a catch against the eventual Super Bowl Champions as New Orleans was eliminated in Drew Brees’ last game.
Since then, there has been a bit of drama between the Saints and Thomas. The veteran receiver spent the offseason attempting to recover from a troublesome ankle injury that plagued him during the 2020 campaign. However, he wasn’t able to and opted to have surgery on the injury.
The one problem: the surgery came so late in the offseason that it guaranteed Thomas wouldn’t be able to start the regular season. As such, the Saints have been shorthanded at receiver while waiting for their top pass catcher to make his comeback.
The tension between both sides seems to have cooled a bit, and now, Thomas may soon be ready to return to action for New Orleans. It’s just a matter of when.
Here’s what you need to know about Thomas’ injury and when you might see him next suit up for the Saints.
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What is Michael Thomas’ injury?
Thomas is dealing with an ankle injury that he has been nursing since suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season. He missed six weeks before returning to action. He later suffered a quad injury and that helped limit him to just seven regular season games.
The ankle was still the most troublesome injury for Thomas. He dealt with a torn deltoid, among other ligaments in his ankle.
The Saints wanted Thomas to have surgery early in the offseason to fix the balky ankle. However, Thomas elected to try to heal his injury non-surgically. It didn’t work, so he opted to have the procedure in June after reporting to Saints mandatory minicamp.
Saints coach Sean Payton wasn’t happy with Thomas’ decision to delay his surgery.
“Well, look, it appears we’re gonna have to spend some time without him. It’s disappointing,” Payton said at Saints training camp, per ESPN. “And we’ll work through it with the other players that are here. But the surgery took place, and obviously we would’ve liked that to happen earlier than later. And quite honestly, it should’ve.”
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How long is Michael Thomas out?
Thomas was placed on the PUP list to start the 2021 NFL season. That meant he would sit out at least six weeks of action. He was eligible to return in Week 7, but the Saints didn’t activate him from the injury list for their game against the Seahawks.
It sounds like the Saints’ receiver may still need a couple of weeks before he can return to action, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport detailed on an Oct. 18 episode of “NFL Live.”
“Star receiver for the Saints Michael Thomas has been battling that lower leg injury, kind of ankle injury ever since his surgery in the spring,” Rapoport said. “I’m told he’s still expected to be a couple weeks away. So that really quick infusion of offense for the New Orleans Saints, doesn’t sound like it’s coming this week or next week.”
From NFL Now: As the players on PUP are eligible to come off the list and practice, we took a look at some key ones. Of note: #Saints WR Michael Thomas is believed to be a few weeks away. pic.twitter.com/pNCD4AN0rA
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 18, 2021
Given that timeline, it would seem that Thomas would either return in Week 9 against the Falcons or Week 10 against the Titans.
Why does Thomas need to miss that extra time? Saints beat writer Nick Underhil explained that Thomas would need some time to “ramp up” as he continues to rehab from the ankle injury.
I don’t think there’s a definitive timetable. I’ve just been told to expect some time for Mike Thomas to ramp up. https://t.co/nnonDMmIkV
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) October 18, 2021
Thomas had the surgery to repair his ankle at some point in June. The recovery time for his procedure was “about four months”, so if he returns in early-to-mid November, he’ll have missed that timetable by only about two or three weeks.
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Saints WR depth chart
Below is a look at how the Saints’ wide receiver depth chart has shaken out with Thomas out of action.
* Chris Hogan retired before the Saints’ game against the Seahawks.
Incredibly, Callaway and Harris are the only two wide receivers with double-digit receptions and more than 100 receiving yards. Callaway has caught 13 passes for 222 yards and three TDs while Harris has 12 catches for 236 yards and two scores. The other receivers on the roster have 152 receiving yards on 13 catches.
When Thomas does return, the Saints will be in much better shape at the receiver spot. He has averaged 7.3 catches per game during his career.
It’s also worth noting that Tre’Quan Smith, who had 34 catches for 448 yards and four touchdowns last season, has yet to play for the Saints. Considering those injuries, it’s impressive that the New Orleans’ passing attack has stayed afloat and earned a 3-2 record in its first five games.