New Orleans Saints star Michael Thomas ignored team for months before surgery

New Orleans Saints star Michael Thomas underwent surgery in June to address an ankle injury that cost him a majority of the 2020 season. With the All-Pro receiver now out for at least a month in the Saints’ regular-season schedule, there might be even bigger problems in New Orleans.

Thomas, suspended a game last year for punching a teammate, played in only nine games this past season in part due to an ankle injury. The issue persisted this spring but instead of undergoing a procedure in February, the three-time Pro Bowl selection went under the knife in June.

Sean Payton expressed frustration over his star receiver delaying the operation and now a report from NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan is shedding further light on the issues between Thomas and the Saints.

  • Michael Thomas stats (2016-’19): 470 receptions, 5,512 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns in 63 games

According to team sources who spoke with Duncan, Saints’ doctors urged Thomas to undergo surgery that would repair the ligament after the 2020 season. The NFL star sought a second opinion which determined he take a more conservative approach by avoiding surgery.

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New Orleans supported the decision, but things quickly went south. Thomas reportedly broke off communication with the team, not returning multiple calls from staffers for three months. Payton, wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson and former team trainer Beau Lowery all reached out to Thomas and never heard back.

The 28-year-old reported for minicamp and a medical examination determined surgery was necessary. With Week 1 closing in, the Saints expect Thomas to miss multiple games.

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Will the Saints trade Michael Thomas?

The Saints were forced to overhaul their roster this offseason after years of contract restructures pushed them well above the 2021 NFL salary cap. It’s part of the reason why, despite all the recent frustrations caused by Thomas, he remains on the roster.

  • Michael Thomas contract: $10.1 million cap hit (2021), $24.7 million cap hit (’22), $25.35 million cap hit (’23)

Floated in NFL trade rumors during the 2020 season, Thomas is sticking around in New Orleans this fall. If the Saints move on from him this year, it would leave the franchise with a $22.5 million cap hit.

Payton and the medical staff are hoping Thomas returns fully healthy in October and plays at his peak level. If that happens, any communication issues or the high salary can be ignored by a team that desperately needs playmakers.

But if Thomas can’t stay on the field and creates issues with the coaching staff or teammates, this might be his last season in New Orleans.