Sean Payton: Michael Thomas Will Be 'Big Part' of Saints Despite Injury, Trade Rumors

Blake SchusterContributor IAugust 15, 2021

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 10: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints reacts following his 11-yard touchdown during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 10, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton doesn't have any question where Michael Thomas will spend his season. As the wideout continues to rehab an ankle injury, Payton told reporters he still expects Thomas to play a major role on the team's offense.

Mike Triplett @MikeTriplett

Sean Payton on Michael Thomas: "It's good to have him back. A lot of his rehab has been in Philadelphia with his ankle specialist. He had a recheck last week, he’s ahead of schedule. He’s gonna be a big part of what we do, and hopefully the sooner, the better with his recovery."

Thomas did not play in Saturday's preseason contest against the Baltimore Ravens, though he did make the trip with his teammates for the exhibition. 

The 2019 Offensive Player of the Year is coming off a seven-game campaign in 2020 during which he caught 40 passes for 438 yards without any touchdowns. 

Yet after a contentious offseason that saw a rift develop between the Saints and their star receiver, Thomas and Payton appear to be getting back on solid terms. Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported Wednesday that the two have been in regular communication lately and a trade request seems much less likely as camp continues. 

Per Robinson: 

"Two sources familiar with the talks said Payton and Thomas had a recent meeting to clear the air over two lingering issues: comments Payton made regarding his frustration over the offseason timing of Thomas’s ankle surgery; and a subsequent social media post from Thomas that suggested the wideout was now at odds with the team.
“They had a good talk about [the issues],” one source said. “I think they both believe it’s not anything that has to go any further than what is already out there. There was some frustration from both viewpoints and that was the point of the meeting.”

That frustration appears to stem from Thomas' ankle injury, which the wideout attempted to come back from without surgery this offseason. In June, that option no longer remained feasible, and Thomas went for a procedure to correct the issue.

A lack of communication between Thomas and his team leading up to the decision appeared to boil over once the Ohio State product decided on an operation. 

"Obviously we would've liked that to happen earlier than later," Payton said two weeks ago as training camp opened. "And quite honestly, it should've,"

Thomas has yet to give a full account of his side of things to reporters, but he posted a not-so-cryptic message on social media that more or less addressed the situation. 

Michael Thomas @Cantguardmike

<a href="https://t.co/frSOCaKHSs">pic.twitter.com/frSOCaKHSs</a>

As tensions continue to cool down, both the Saints and Thomas are working on a way forward that keeps the 28-year-old in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.