February 28, 2024

Michael Thomas hasn’t played in an NFL game since January 2021, but reports from training camp indicate the wide receiver has completed a critical step in the long process of getting back on the field.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Thomas participated in team drills during the Saints’ practice on Saturday, noting that Thomas is “full” for training camp. It’s an encouraging development in the ongoing saga of Thomas’ long recovery from ankle surgery that sidelined him for more than a year.

The wideout initially injured his ankle in Week 1 of the 2020 season and while battling through the pain he struggled, recording just 40 catches and 438 receiving yards in just seven games played.

Thomas decided to have surgery on the ankle in June next offseason to address the issue, with the initial timeline for his return being around four months. But Thomas ended up not playing at all in 2021 and still hasn’t gotten 100 percent into his workouts this offseason.

The recovery process has been slow as Thomas hasn’t participated in organized team activities and entered training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but with Thomas cleared for individual drills on Wednesday and team drills on Saturday, it looks like he’s finally in position to make his return.

It’s welcome news for the Saints, whose receiving corps has struggled mightily without the three-time Pro Bowler in 2021. New Orleans finished last in the league in total receiving yards and no player amassed more than 700 yards.

Thomas recorded at least 1,100 receiving yards in his first four seasons and led the Saints in receiving yards in all four of those years, including a 2019 campaign in which he set an NFL single-season record with 149 receptions.

If his practices continue to move in the right direction throughout the preseason and he can play at his previous level this year, that will be a huge help to the Saints offense.

New Orleans also addressed last season’s receiving issues by acquiring veteran Jarvis Landry and first-round pick Chris Olave out of Ohio State, so all signs point to the offense entering the season in a much better position than it was this season last year.

So after months of questions about when Thomas would be able to make his long-awaited return, it appears the receiver is playing at full health during training camp and could make his long-awaited return to the field Week 1.

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