The New Orleans Saints are banking on having wideout Michael Thomas for the start of the regular season.
"When the ball kicks off for real, Mike Thomas is going to be ready to go, and we're excited about that," head coach Dennis Allen told reporters Tuesday.
Thomas, 29, missed the entirety of the 2021 season with a left ankle injury and didn't participate in the team's preseason opener Saturday against the Houston Texans.
In early August, he returned to 11-on-11 drills for the first time since the 2020 season.
"Honestly there was a couple of times he ended up on the ground," Allen told reporters at the time. "That's all part of the process in building that confidence. I think he's in a good mindset right now, I think he looks good physically. I'm excited about where he's at."
And Thomas has been pretty happy just to be back practicing with the team again.
"Man, I'm kind of lost for words," he told reporters in late July. "I didn't want to come up here and get emotional or anything. But it was a blessing to be back out there with the guys."
"I mean, even the year that I played [a total of nine games in 2020], I was playing injured, and I was still kind of helping this team win games and move the chains. And I was clearly on one ankle," he added. "I'm just happy to be trending now in the right direction and handling my business. ... And I take pride in that challenge."
When healthy, Thomas was a receptions machine and a three-time Pro Bowler. He posted at least 1,100 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons and 100 or more receptions for three straight years between the 2017-19 campaigns, culminating in an epic performance in 2019 (149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns).
But the injury bug bit in 2020, and now the question is whether Thomas can ever return to the form that made him one of the game's best receivers and most dangerous offensive weapons.
If he does, the trio of Thomas, Jarvis Landry and rookie Chris Olave could make the Saints very dangerous through the air.