In the space of four days, the New Orleans Saints have lost their starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, and the hope of getting back one of the NFL’s most feared wide receivers, Michael Thomas.
Winston was lost for the season because of a knee injury during Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay.
And on Wednesday, Thomas, who led the NFL in receiving in 2018 and ’19 and set the NFL record for receptions with 149 in ’19, announced that the ankle injury that has made him miss all of this season so far has taken a turn for the worse, and he will not return to action in 2021-22 at all.
“To my displeasure, I will not be able to make it back in time for this season, but will do everything in my power to get back to the player I have always been,” Thomas said on his Twitter account – @Cantguardmike. “Unfortunately, there has been another small setback (with his ankle), which we will have to address.”
Thomas originally hurt his ankle in the season opener of the 2020 season and returned to play in six more regular season games before being placed on injured reserve with the lingering injury. He returned for the team’s two playoff games. The Saints also benched him for a game early last season because he punched defensive back teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson at practice.
Thomas tried to rehabilitate the injury without surgery, then had surgery last June, which upset Saints coach Sean Payton as that procedure and its recovery sidelined him for the first six games of this season. Had he had surgery immediately after the season, he conceivably could have been playing all season.
Payton confirmed Thomas’ updated injury status on Wednesday and said there may have to be more surgery.
“I think it’s accurate to say there was a setback,” Payton said. “He’s working his tail off. The procedure had more to do with the procedure he had initially. There’s a chance that he may have to have another procedure. This isn’t anything that he can control. It has more to do with the tightrope procedure, and what that is. It is a procedure that strengthens the ankle after you’ve had a significant injury to that area. So the setback is really surgically related, and we’ll go from there.”
The Saints (5-2) have continued to win without Thomas, mainly because of their defense and running back Alvin Kamara, as the passing game has suffered. Now, with Winston done for the season, the Saints are left with journeyman quarterback Trevor Siemian, who did lead the team to a 36-27 win on Sunday over Tampa Bay (6-2). The Saints host Atlanta (3-4) at noon central time on FOX and may have quarterback Taysom Hill back after missing the last two games with a concussion. There is also rookie Ian Book, a fourth round pick by the Saints in the last NFL Draft out of Notre Dame.
As recently as Tuesday, those close to the Saints thought Thomas would be returning to action soon.
“The team and I have worked diligently day and night to rehab and get me back on the field,” Thomas said in his tweet.
Thomas has three years left on his contract at $19.2 million a year.
“I can’t wait to be back on the field in front of the best fans on the planet,” he said.