Michael Thomas hasn’t played in an NFL game since January 2021, but reports from training camp suggest the wide receiver has completed a crucial step in the long process of returning to the field.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network Insider reported that Thomas participated in team training during Saturday’s Saints practice, noting that Thomas is a “complete starting point” for training camp. It’s an encouraging development in the ongoing saga of Thomas’ long recovery from the ankle surgery that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a year.
The wide player originally injured his ankle in the first week of the 2020 season, and as he struggled through the pain he experienced, he only scored 40 assists and 438 yards in just seven games.
Thomas decided to have ankle surgery in June of the following season to address the problem, with the initial timeline for his return around four months. But Thomas ended up not playing at all in 2021, and was not 100 per cent involved in off-season training programmes.
The recovery process has been slow, with Thomas not participating in organized team activities and starting a training camp on a slate physically unable to perform, but with Thomas cleared for individual training on Wednesday and team training on Saturday, it appears he is finally in a position to make a comeback.
It’s welcome news for the Saints, whose receiving team struggled massively without the Pro Bowler three times in 2021. New Orleans finished last in the league in total receiving yards, and no player collected more than 700 yards.
Thomas scored no fewer than 1,100 yards in his first four seasons and led the Saints in receiving yards every four years, including the 2019 campaign in which he set a one-season NFL record with 149 receptions.
If his practices continue in the right direction throughout pre-season and he can play at his previous level this year, it would be a huge help to the Saints offense.
New Orleans also addressed receiving issues last season by acquiring veteran Jarvis Landry and drafting first-round pick Chris Olaf of Ohio State, so all together the signs point to the attack that started the season in much better shape than this time last year.
So after months of questions about when Thomas will be able to make his long-awaited comeback, the receiver appears to be playing in full health during training camp and could be back on the field in the much-anticipated first week.