Michael Thomas will not be returning from the PUP list after all.
The Saints’ top receiver has been eligible to play since Week 7 after missing the first six weeks of the season recovering from an ankle injury. The Saints were planning to activate him from the injury list after ramping him up in practice. It looked like a return in Week 9 or 10 was possible.
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However, Thomas suffered a setback in his recovery that will cause him to miss the rest of the season, as he announced on Twitter Wednesday morning.
Thomas has dealt with an ankle injury since the beginning of last season, as he noted. He played through pain late last season in an effort to help the Saints make one last postseason run with Drew Brees as the team’s quarterback. They lost to the Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the 2021 playoffs 30-20, a game in which Thomas had zero catches.
After that point, some drama came to a head between Thomas and the Saints. He elected not to have surgery on his injured ankle until the Saints’ mandatory minicamp in June. That guaranteed he would miss at least part of the season, as recovery time for the injury was “about four months.”
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Thomas had tried to rehab the injury non-surgically after the season, but it didn’t work. His decision to wait on his surgery drew the ire of Saints coach Sean Payton.
“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.”
Had Thomas had the surgery earlier in the offseason, there’s a chance he could’ve played in 2021. Instead, he’ll be sidelined after his latest setback and ankle injury, and the Saints will have to make do without him.
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The Saints will likely rely on the trio of Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris to carry the team’s receiving corps with Thomas out for the rest of the season. Alvin Kamara, who leads the Saints in receptions with 28, will also play a big receiving role for the team out of the backfield.
That said, New Orleans figures to skew as a run-heavy team with Winston out and Thomas not returning. They already rank No. 1 in the NFL in run play percentage, as they run 51.5 percent of the time. The Bears are the only other team league-wide to run more than they pass it.
So, while Thomas’ loss will impact the Saints, they will still have a chance to win games. They have gone 5-2 without him, after all, so if they stick to their ground-dominant offensive plan, they should still have a chance to qualify for the postseason.