Sports

Saints’ Michael Thomas participates in 11-on-11 drills for first time in almost two years

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas works on passing drills during training camp Aug. 3, 2019 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, La. 

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The New Orleans Saints brace for the return of an elite receiver.

Michael Thomas took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in nearly two years on Saturday.

Thomas has been out with an ankle injury since the end of the 2020 season and suffered a setback in the 2021 season.

Head coach Dennis Allen said Thomas is becoming more confident in the strength of his ankle.

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New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas works out passing drills during training camp August 3, 2019 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, LA.
(Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Honestly, there were a few times he landed on the ground,” Allen said via ESPN.

“That’s all part of the process of building that confidence. I think he’s in a good mentality now. I think he looks good physically. I’m excited about where he is.”

Thomas led the NFL in catches in 2018 and 2019 and set the NFL record for most receptions in a season (149) in 2019. He also led the NFL with 1,729 receiving yards that season and was named the Offensive Player of the Year .

Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints catches a 3-yard touchdown pass against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome November 24, 2019 in New Orleans.

Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints catches a 3-yard touchdown pass against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome November 24, 2019 in New Orleans.
(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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In each of his four NFL seasons, Thomas totaled at least 90 catches and 1,100 yards, with both numbers increasing year on year. He averaged 118 catches, 1,378 yards, and eight touchdowns per season.

He played in just seven games in 2020 and last played on January 17, 2021 in the NFC Divisional Round against eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Thomas did not participate in OTAs in June, but has been practicing, although limited, since the first day of training camp.

Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field December 13, 2020 in Philadelphia.

Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field December 13, 2020 in Philadelphia.
(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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The Saints open the season in Atlanta against the Falcons and Thomas will have to bond with quarterback Jameis Winston. Thomas last played when Drew Brees was the QB of the Saints.