As expected, Sean Payton isn’t thrilled about not having Michael Thomas on the field to open the 2021 season. The league’s leading receiver in 2019, Thomas is expected to miss significant time after undergoing ankle surgery in June.
Perhaps unexpected was Payton’s criticism of when Thomas received surgery. The Saints coach used the word “disappointing” when describing his feelings on not having Thomas to start what will be a radically unknown season for the Saints.
“It appears we’re going to have to spend some time without him,” Payton snapped via Rod Walker of Nola.com. “It’s disappointing. We would have liked that to have happened earlier. And quite honestly, it should have. I’m going to leave it at that.”
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Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was also asked about Thomas on Wednesday. Loomis said that the hope was that Thomas’ injury would heal though “conservative treatment” in lieu of surgery. Ankle issues contributed to Thomas appearing in a career-low seven games in 2020.
“With hindsight, we would have preferred that surgery to be earlier, in February or March,” Loomis said. “But it wasn’t. It is what it is. Hopefully he’s had a good result so far and we can get him back sooner rather than later.”
With Thomas expected to miss time, the Saints signed veteran wideout Chris Hogan, who won two Super Bowl with the Patriots earlier in his career. New Orleans’ receiving corps also includes Tre’Quan Smith (34 receptions for 448 yards and four touchdowns in 2020), Marquez Callaway (21 receptions for 212 yards last season) and Deonte Harris (20 receptions for 186 yards in 2020). While running back Alvin Kamara (the team’s leading receiver in 2020) is back, New Orleans parted this offseason with its second- and third-leading receivers from last season — Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Jared Cook.
While they await Thomas’ return, quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will have to make the most of what Loomis feels is an underrated receiving corps.
“We like our group of receivers more than some of the media guys do,” Loomis said.