New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas took the next step in his return to football on Saturday.
Thomas participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since the end of the 2020 season, continuing an acceleration process underway since the start of the offseason. Thomas was only a spectator at OTAs in June, but was able to practice on the first day of training camp and returned to 7-on-7 drills on Wednesday.
So far, everything has been positive for his recovery from the left ankle injury, which required surgery to repair a torn deltoid and other injured ligaments. Thomas hasn’t been 100% since being injured in the 2020 season opener and hasn’t been fully involved in training since the end of that season.
Thomas missed the 2021 offseason after undergoing ankle surgery and did not return to play during the regular season last year after a midseason setback.
Saints coach Dennis Allen said Friday that Thomas’ return to team drills would come “soon,” which he joked about on Saturday.
“I told you it would happen sooner rather than later, didn’t I?” he joked.
Allen said Saturday was a good day for Thomas to build confidence in his ankle strength.
“Honestly, he got on the ground a lot of times,” Allen said. “It’s part of the process of building that confidence. I think he’s in a good frame of mind at the moment, I think he’s looking good physically. I’m delighted to know where he is. .”
Thomas started the first set of team drills on Saturday with a pass from quarterback Jameis Winston, then later attempted a catch on the Winston sideline that was interrupted by cornerback Paulson Adebo. He caught another pass from Winston that was missed and picked up by safety Tyrann Mathieu, who also returned to full-team drills for the first time on Saturday after missing the start of camp for personal reasons.
Thomas ended his day with a catch from third-team quarterback Ian Book.
“We kind of held the reins on him, our decision more than his. It’s part of the process of ramping up and we will continue to ramp him up,” Allen said of Mathieu, who returned in training. Wednesday.
It’s been a positive few days for Thomas, who made a statement on Wednesday going 3-for-3 on his 7-for-7 return to duty. He also looked sharp in one-on-one work against defensive backs. It’s unclear whether Mathieu or Thomas will play the Saints’ preseason opener against the Texans on Aug. 13.
O how much the best fans have missed the most🙂! #who 💪🏾⚜️ https://t.co/WSYUpiak6D
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) August 5, 2022
A surprising absence from practice was linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has decided to retire, according to a source. Alonso was ready to return to football after a two-year absence and signed with the Saints on Friday, also taking part in training that day.
He fully recovered from a torn ACL that occurred with the Saints at the end of the 2019 season, but changed his mind about a return, opting to remain retired instead. He will retire after six seasons and 86 games in the NFL with the Bills, Eagles, Dolphins and Saints.