New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas have clashed this offseason, sparking trade rumors and questions about the long-term fit. It seems both franchise icons are trying to end the speculation.
Thomas, who took a shot at the Saints on social media, arrived for the Saints’ preseason opener and hung out with teammates and coaches before the game. It came not long after he had a private meeting to discuss his issues with Payton.
Whatever discussions Payton and Thomas had, it seemed to help and a trade now feels increasingly doubtful.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Payton provided an update on Thomas’s injury and the team’s plan for the star receiver in 2021.
“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.”New Orleans Saints HC Sean Payton on Michael Thomas, via Mike Triplett
While the issues between Payton and Thomas escalated this offseason, the first problem might date back to the 2020 season. Thomas, who already missed multiple games due to an ankle injury, was suspended for a game after he punched a teammate at practice.
If they worked through their differences then, issues arose this spring. The Saints’ doctors wanted Thomas to undergo surgery in February that would fix damaged ligaments in his ankle. He sought a second opinion and didn’t get the procedure.
When the issue persisted in June, Thomas underwent ankle surgery. Payton was not only frustrated by the delayed decision, which will cost Thomas to miss regular-season games, but the star not communicating with coaches.
- Michael Thomas stats (2016-’19): 470 receptions, 5,512 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns in 63 games
After both sides made public comments directed toward one another, it’s possible this is a short-term resolution. Realistically, the Saints can’t afford to lose Thomas. With one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL outside of Thomas and an awful cap situation, New Orleans can’t lose its star and take on a massive cap hit.