Report: Michael Thomas' Suspension Result of Clashes with Payton, Saints Coaches

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 13, 2020

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas waits for the start of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas' one-game suspension following a fight with teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson in practice Saturday was reportedly a result of insubordination toward head coach Sean Payton and the coaching staff.

Jeff Duncan of The Athletic reported Tuesday that Thomas "talked back to coaches, including Payton, and obstinately refused counsel" after the confrontation with Gardner-Johnson, which sparked the team's decision to sit him out of Monday night's win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

New Orleans officially suspended Thomas for "conduct detrimental to the team" related to the incident, per Brett Martel of the Associated Press.

The Saints overcame a 20-3 deficit to score a 30-27 win over the Chargers in overtime. It marked their fourth straight game without quarterback Drew Brees' No. 1 target after he'd missed the previous three games with a high-ankle sprain suffered in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We had an incident and Sean addressed it and many of the leaders have spoken with Mike as well," Brees told reporters after the victory. "We're going to be all good."

The suspension came after what Duncan described as a "pattern of troubling behavior," which included instances where the wideout "barked at team trainers for failing to tape his ankle properly and accused one administrative staffer of illegally going through his mail."

It's a growing concern for a Saints organization that signed the 27-year-old reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year to a five-year, $96.25 million contract extension in July 2019.

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Thomas set an NFL record with 149 receptions last season to go along with 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns as New Orleans ranked third in scoring offense (28.6 PPG). It's managed to rank sixth in that category this year (30.6 PPG) despite his absence for the last four games.

Running back Alvin Kamara has taken on an even larger role in the passing game, catching 38 passes for 395 yards, while veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders has tallied 26 receptions for 304 yards.

The Saints have a bye in Week 6, so Thomas' next chance to return will come Oct. 25 when they host the Carolina Panthers.