The New Orleans Saints and wide receiver Michael Thomas have developed a bit of a frosty relationship over the last nine to 10 months.
It started at the end of the Saints 2020 season, where they were eliminated in the divisional round of the playoffs by rival and eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. Thomas was advised to get surgery for ligament damage on his injured ankle — an ankle that had bothered him for the entire 2020 season, causing him to miss time. Thomas waited until June to have the surgery as he tried to rehab on his own.
Saints Brass Upset Thomas Prolonged Having Surgery
In July, head coach Sean Payton, in an interview acknowledged that Saints team doctors advised “Can’t Guard Mike” to undergo surgery at the end of the 2020 season.
Payton was visibly upset that Thomas instead opted for a second opinion. That second opinion gave Thomas the belief that he could heal through much rest and rehab, without having to go under the knife.
That proved to be incorrect, and Thomas then opted for the surgery after letting about six months pass.
“It appears we’re going to have to spend some time without him,” Payton snapped at the time. “It’s disappointing. We would have liked that to have happened earlier,” he paused, continuing: “And quite honestly, it should have. I’m going to leave it at that.”
Communication Failure During Off-season
While this was all taking place, Thomas and the Saints reportedly didn’t communicate for three months. Sean Payton and wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson both attested to not hearing from their star wideout over that time, despite multiple calls being made. Team trainer Beau Lowery also confirmed that his calls were never returned. This, of course, didn’t paint a very good picture of the wideout.
Saints Considered Trading The All-Pro WR
After weeks of back and forth jabs between Thomas and the team, Thomas took to Twitter to say the team was out to ruin his reputation. A possible trade was in the air and actually had legs. Reports say they were looking to acquire Odell Beckham Jr. to possibly help with the receiving shortage. The Saints decided against it, but that didn’t stop Thomas from speaking his mind in August. After all, he is the nephew of Keyshawn “Just Give Me The Damn Ball” Johnson.
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) August 9, 2021
He wrote on Twitter, “They tried to damage your reputation. You saved theirs by not telling your side of the story.”
When asked about Thomas’ comments, Payton wasn’t in any mood to talk and responded accordingly via NFL.com.
“No, I don’t wanna have a press conference based on social media,” he said.
Payton And Thomas Meet To Clear Air
The two eventually met.
According to Yahoo, “Two sources familiar with the talks said the meeting was to clear the air over two lingering issues: Comments Payton made regarding his frustration over the off-season timing of Thomas’ ankle surgery. A subsequent social media post from Thomas suggested the wideout was now “at odds with the team.”
Thomas Suffers Setback During Rehab Now Out For Season
On Wednesday, Nov. 3, Thomas took to Twitter to announce he was out for the season.
Michael Thomas says he won’t be able to make it back onto the field this season.
“Will do everything in my power to get back to the player I have always been” 🙏 pic.twitter.com/I90du4K8no
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) November 3, 2021
This is a huge blow for a team that is using its backup quarterback and was expecting to have its number-one wideout back.
Payton told the New Orleans Advocate the following in reference to the setback.
“This isn’t anything he can control.”
The Saints are 5-2, and in good position to earn a playoff berth, but their receiving corps doesn’t have one player with 20 receptions. Their only option is to spread the wealth so an NFL-leading 18 different players have a reception this season for “Nawlins.”
Payton doesn’t seem worried, and he told NOLA.com this:
“I thought they had a good game last week. These guys are tough, they’re competitive, I like them. I’m not interested in PFF grades or any of that stuff. Obviously, you’re better if we have Michael Thomas in that group, but we don’t.”
Thomas and the organizations’ relationship took a huge hit with this ordeal. We all know the best ability is availability. Thomas went with his gut and lost and the frustration on both sides boiled into a lack of communication and lingering animosity, which is now magnified because his team is struggling with injuries. Payton and Thomas haven’t seen eye to eye for a long time. This could be a damaging blow to Thomas’ future with the team. We already realize that it compromises the season.