New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas was all smiles as he participated in his first voluntary practice on Tuesday for the first time during this offseason. Thomas, who missed all but the team’s first three games of the 2020 season due to a foot injury, played catch with an assistant coach and ran routes off to the side for Saints quarterbacks while wearing a helmet and his white No. 13 practice jersey.
Thomas, who played in just 10 games over the past three regular seasons due to injuries, plans to be “full speed, just like the old days, and what everyone’s used to” by training camp. He was upbeat about the opportunity to build something special with the team and his new quarterback.
Derek Carr, who joined the Saints after spending his first nine NFL seasons with the Raiders, was happy to have Thomas on his team. He started throwing to Thomas at the Saints headquarters on Monday and is learning what Thomas liked about playing with Saints all-time passer Drew Brees, who retired after the 2020 season.
Carr has been explaining what he liked about throwing passes to top receivers he’s played with, such as Davante Adams, to see if Thomas is comfortable linking up in similar ways. Despite his experience, Carr is not going to dictate how Thomas should handle the receiver’s end of a passing play.
“I don’t care who’s right,” Carr said. “I care what’s right.”
Thomas has not made it through even half of a regular season since 2019, when he was named All-Pro for a second straight year and set an NFL record with 149 receptions. In 2020, he missed nine games due to ankle problems. After signing a one-year, $10 million contract with the Saints, he hopes to return to form and help the team make the playoffs. The Saints have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, with Thomas’ absence being a major factor.
Thomas could have stayed off the field until mandatory minicamp next week, but his eager participation in this week’s voluntary practice was gratifying to the coaches and his teammates. Dennis Allen, Saints coach, said that Thomas’ presence was essential to building something special this season.
The Saints have a lot riding on Thomas’ return, and he’s committed to doing everything he can to help the team win. “I’ve just been grinding, man,” Thomas said. “I know what’s expected from me. I know what my job is. I know the type of player I’m capable of being.”