The New Orleans Saints are welcoming new faces like Chris Olave and Tyrann Mathieu and healthy veterans like Jameis Winston back to the field this week for organized team activities. But one vital player is still missing.
Star receiver Michael Thomas, who sat out the entirety of the 2021 season with ankle injuries, is still unable to participate in practice.
"I think he's doing well in his rehab. He's not ready yet," Saints head coach Dennis Allen told reporters Thursday. "But he's here, he's rehabbing, he's getting himself better and we're certainly anxious to get him out there."
Asked if Thomas would be ready for training camp in July, Allen said it was "certainly our plan," but he didn't commit to Thomas' availability this summer.
"If I had a crystal ball and could tell you all these things, I'd probably be making a lot more money and doing something different," the first-year Saints head coach joked. "But yeah, our hope is that he's gonna be ready to for training camp. So that's what we're pushing for."
Thomas' absence has held back the Saints offense for the last year-plus. The All-Pro receiver and former AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year missed nine games in the 2020 season and all 17 contests in 2021 with myriad ankle ailments. Thomas delayed getting ankle surgery until July 2021, started the season on the PUP list and never made it back to the field. As a result, running back Alvin Kamara and receiver Marquez Callaway led New Orleans with 47 and 46 receptions, respectively. Just two years prior, Thomas had set an NFL record with 149 catches.
To protect against having such little star power at receiver again, New Orleans drafted Olave with the No. 12 overall pick last month, re-signed Tre'Quan Smith and signed veteran pass catcher Jarvis Landry to a one-year deal this spring.
Allen and company have expected Thomas to return to the team and to form this season; the team restructured his contract, and general manager Mickey Loomis has pointed out the receiver's motivation to return. But so far, the wideout remains on the shelf.
Allen said earlier this month that Olave's selection and Thomas' return was akin to getting "two first-round draft choices at wide receiver" in the offseason. The Saints are hoping the veteran "first-round draft choice" doesn't take yet another redshirt year.