Michael Thomas reacts to Jaguars firing his old college coach Urban Meyer

Michael Thomas reacts to Jaguars firing his old college coach Urban Meyer

The Jacksonville Jaguars ended the Urban Meyer era near midnight on Wednesday, announcing their decision to fire the first-year head coach after a tumultuous series of on-field and off-field incidents illustrated just how badly Meyer was out of his depth in the NFL.

His list of offenses runs long — take your pick between his terrible win-loss record, dubiously qualified hires on his coaching staff, illegal practices in offseason workouts, shenanigans at his bar with a woman who was not his wife during a game week, behind-the-scenes belittling of his assistants, and the latest accusation that he kicked a player during warmups, it was past time for him to go.

But not everyone is celebrating his departure. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has long respected Meyer as one of the greatest coaches he ever worked with at Ohio State, and still credits Meyer for much of the success he’s found after turning pro. Thomas responded to the news of Meyer’s dismissal on Twitter, writing:

It’s clear Thomas isn’t happy to see his mentor’s downfall so widely celebrated, and he’s entitled to his own take. But it’s also apparent that he may have had a wildly different experience under Meyer’s tutelage, or else responded better to the brand of coaching Meyer tried and failed to import to the NFL.

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Michael Thomas says he’s out for the 2021 season

Breaking: Michael Thomas says he’s out for the 2021 season

This sucks. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas announced Wednesday that he will not be back for the remainder of the 2021 season after suffering a setback in his recovery from offseason ankle surgery. He won’t be able to play again this year.

It’s a huge hit to the Saints passing game, which has ranked second-to-last in the NFL without Thomas and with Jameis Winston at the helm. Now they’re both out of the picture. We’ll have to see how far Alvin Kamara, Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill, and their no-name supporting cast can take the team after the Saints failed to make any moves at the NFL trade deadline.

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Report: Michael Thomas has new, different ankle injury; 2021 return ‘unpredictable’

Report: Michael Thomas has new, different ankle injury; 2021 return ‘unpredictable’

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We’re on to another frustrating chapter in the Michael Thomas story. There was a brief, beautiful moment when Thomas was seen cheering on his teammates from the New Orleans Saints sideline in Sunday’s big win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without a medical boot or any sort of brace on his ankle, but we aren’t allowed to have good things.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Saints wide receiver is managing a “new and separate” ankle issue following his recovery from surgery earlier this summer, putting his potential return from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list in jeopardy. Here’s Rapoport’s full quote:

“He is dealing with a new and separate ankle injury. Remember, he had ankle surgery this spring that put him on the sidelines in the beginning of the season. And in the last couple days, he saw a specialist to try to ascertain when is he going to be back and what issues need to be fixed. I talked to a source informed of this situation when he is going to be back and I was told it is unpredictable. So if you’re wondering why behind the scenes the Saints tried to trade for a receiver yesterday and talked to several teams about a potential deal that never ended up happening, this is why. Because we do not know when Saints receiver Michael Thomas is going to be able to be on the field because of a new issue with this ankle.”

That’s not at all where you want to be right now. The Saints have clawed and scrapped to achieve a 5-2 record without Thomas, but now they’re without their best quarterback in Jameis Winston. They explored a trade for disgruntled Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline but couldn’t convince Cleveland to take on enough of the salary cap hit to make it worthwhile. NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill reported they also pursued New York Giants wideout Darius Slayton but other injuries at the position kept New York from offloading him. That interest is due as much to a sustained absence for Thomas as it is how anemic their passing game has looked without him.

It’s annoyingly easy to see a future where Thomas never plays this season if his condition doesn’t improve. And if the schism between him and the Saints isn’t healed, he could very well never catch another pass in a Saints uniform. The team can save $2 million by cutting or trading him before June 1, 2022 or wait until after that date and recoup $15.8 million. It’s a high-stakes situation and worth monitoring moving forward.

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Sean Payton shares update on Michael Thomas’ recovery

Sean Payton shares update on Michael Thomas’ recovery

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The New Orleans Saints left most of their injured teammates back home to continue resting up, but one notable player on the mend made the trip for their preseason opener on the road. Michael Thomas was spotted on the Saints sideline during their game with the Baltimore Ravens, and he looked like someone eager to shed his walking boot and get to work. By the third quarter, he was catching passes.

Sean Payton spoke briefly about Thomas making the trip during his postgame press conference, telling the Athletic’s Katherine Terrell that Thomas joined the team after receiving treatment in Philadelphia. Payton said Thomas is doing well and is ahead of schedule in recovery; previous reports outlined his return by New Orleans’ Week 6 bye.

“But it wasn’t this big Kumbaya moment or anything like that,” Payton added, downplaying the emotional value in having one of his team’s best players back in the fold. Payton and Thomas recently buried the hatchet in a private meeting, though he said any details of that conservation, “is between he and I.”

Thomas was clearly excited to back with the team, and they were just as obviously happy to have him around. And for good reason. The only other wide receiver to win NFL Offensive Player of the Year is in the Hall of Fame right now. Thomas and the Saints are better together, and for now, getting him back to full speed is their shared focus.

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Michael Thomas to join Saints sideline vs. Ravens

Michael Thomas to join Saints sideline vs. Ravens

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There’s some good news. Friction between New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and superstar wide receiver Michael Thomas came to a head on the eve of training camp, but both sides recently met for a chat to smooth things over. And now we’ve got an idea of what came from that conversation.

The Times-Picayune | Advocate’s Jeff Duncan reports that Thomas is expected to join Payton and his Saints teammates on the sidelines for their first preseason game with the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night. Injured players rarely travel with the team (especially for exhibition games) and Thomas is still recovering from ankle surgery in June, but it appears they plan to make an exception. NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill and ESPN’s Mike Triplett confirmed that Thomas has joined the team in Baltimore.

And it’s worth the effort. Thomas and the Saints are always going to be better off together, and while it isn’t impossible to see a division a year or two down the line, it’s in everyone’s best interests for them to put on a public front of unity.

No more vague song lyrics tweets. No more angry comments in press conferences. Just Thomas being a good teammate and showing support, probably standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Payton at times. Maybe we get a bro-hug or a handshake at some point. What happens in the future is anyone’s guess, but for I’m betting on Thomas working hard to recover and get back on the field.

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Report: Michael Thomas, Sean Payton share ‘productive’ meeting

Report: Michael Thomas, Sean Payton share ‘productive’ meeting following tumultuous Saints offseason

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Hold onto your Michael Thomas jersey swaps. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports that the New Orleans Saints star receiver met with head coach Sean Payton to work through the summer’s frustrations, centering on Thomas’ delayed ankle surgery in June. That his availability in doubt for the 2021 season opener, prompting a callout from Payton in his first press conference of training camp. Thomas followed up with his own message on Twitter, but now it appears both sides are working to mend fences.

Robinson cites two sources close to the meeting that expressed optimism about the situation, suggesting Thomas and Payton were able to clear the air. One source told Robinson that, “They had a good talk about [the issues]. I think they both believe it’s not anything that has to go any further than what is already out there. There was some frustration from both viewpoints and that was the point of the meeting.”

He also spoke with several general managers of rival teams across the NFL about potential trade interest in Thomas. And they agreed that now, coming off of an injury and having been benched for a game last season following a fight in practice and social media antics, he wouldn’t return much value to New Orleans — maybe “a package of second- and third-round picks” one of them speculated. In a vacuum, otherwise healthy and eager to help a new team, they speculated Thomas would be worth at least one first rounder, and maybe more.

Anyway: this is a welcome gust of good news after such a tumultuous offseason. The meeting was confirmed by NFL insider Josina Anderson, who added that, “there’s been a desire to mend fences, mitigate the situation from festering [and] to literally just get back to football.”

Here’s hoping Payton and Thomas are on the same page and ready to work once he’s healthy. The sorry state of their receiving corps, doing little to help either of their two new starting quarterbacks, could really use him.

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Report: Michael Thomas missed months of New Orleans Saints phone calls

Report: Michael Thomas missed months of New Orleans Saints phone calls

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It seems like a messy new chapter in the Michael Thomas saga unfolds every other week. The latest news on the New Orleans Saints star receiver comes from Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune | Advocate, who reports that months passed between Thomas’ last conversation with the Saints and his June surgery.

Here’s what we know: team doctors recommended he get surgery back in January, but Thomas sought a second opinion, which proposed rehabbing the damaged ligaments without going under the knife. When Thomas and the Saints met again in March, he chose to take the second option, agreeing to pursue “progressive benchmarks” in recovery until his return to the team facility in June. But, Duncan writes, that’s where communication collapsed:

“For unknown reasons, Thomas fell out of communication with the Saints. He did not return multiple calls over the next three months. Then-Saints trainer Beau Lowery, wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson and head coach Sean Payton all tried to reach Thomas. None of their calls were taken or returned.”

Now, this isn’t entirely new information — NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill previously reported that Thomas missed a follow-up evaluation with a specialist without explanation earlier this offseason, which led to the decision for him receive surgery. But the silence between Thomas and the Saints is ugly.

It’s not unusual for players rehabbing away from the team to share updates on their progress (look at the extensive coverage Kwon Alexander provided this offseason), but it’s understandable if he missed a phone call here or there.  And there’s an argument for Thomas kicking back and enjoying his offseason, and recovering on the Saints’ time instead.

That’s just not the sort of behavior expected from a franchise player. He’s supposed to be the tip of the spear for the Saints offense, a leader, and an example of how someone can do great things by virtue of hard work. He’s gotten to this point by putting in the time to refine his craft and polish his routes to perfectly execute the assignments asked of him in their scheme.

But this was an assignment he didn’t complete. Between missing his second evaluation and dodging communication with the team until it was contractually obligated to respond to them, he’s put everyone in a bind. Maybe there’s even more friction between Thomas and Payton and the rest of the organization than we’ve seen publicly. Maybe Thomas is managing personal problems. Whatever the issue is, it has to get solved soon.

For the fans calling to go ahead and kick him to the curb: the Saints can’t cut or trade Thomas this year after restructuring his contract (doing so would cost an additional $22.5 million on top of what he’s already being paid), but a move after June 1, 2022 would save them $15.7 million. If the situation continues to deteriorate and younger, cheaper options keep the offense on schedule in 2021, it’s tough to see how Thomas returns next year.

But it doesn’t have to end that way. There’s a very real scenario where both parties mend fences and clear the air and go on to continue winning games and set more NFL records. That’s not impossible. At this early stage, though, it just feels unlikely.

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Sean Payton on Michael Thomas’ surgery: ‘Quite frankly, it should have’ happened sooner

Sean Payton on Michael Thomas’ surgery: ‘Quite frankly, it should have’ happened sooner

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Woof. Sean Payton hasn’t often shied away from calling out his players in front of the media, but it’s rare to see the New Orleans Saints coach as frustrated as he was on Wednesday. During his pre-training camp press conference, Payton criticized All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas for the delay between the end of the 2020 season and his June ankle surgery, which landed him on the PUP list.

“It appears we’re going to have to spend some time without him,” Payton snapped. “It’s disappointing. We would have liked that to have happened earlier,” he paused, continuing: “And quite honestly, it should have. I’m going to leave it at that.”

Frustrations mounted for both sides throughout the 2020 season; Thomas was issued a one-game suspension following a fight in practice, but a comment directed at the coaching staff reportedly weighted into that benching more than any blows exchanged. It sure doesn’t sound like time has healed the friction between player and coach.

So this is very much a developing situation. Keep an eye out for updates.

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Michael Thomas expected to miss start of 2021 season following ankle surgery

All-Pro New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the 2021 season following ankle surgery, per multiple reports:

A hammer has fallen on the New Orleans Saints with news of Michael Thomas undergoing ankle surgery in June, which will put him on ice for about four months. NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill first reported that Thomas is expected to miss the start of the 2021 season while recovering, which was confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Thomas had his worst year as a pro in 2020 after going down late in Week 1’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an ankle issue, eventually bouncing on and off of the injured reserve list before returning for a catchless performance against that same Buccaneers squad in the postseason.

It was reported back in January that Thomas may have needed offseason surgery to repair the damaged ligaments in his ankle, but for whatever reason he and the Saints elected to wait until the last minute to go that route. Now he’s likely to miss Week 1’s matchup with the Green Bay Packers, and possibly more time. This is a developing story so be sure to check back for updates.

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Michael Thomas and Drew Brees were a perfect match, but No. 13 will be just fine without him

Michael Thomas and Drew Brees were a perfect match, but No. 13 will be just fine without him

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Sure, Michael Thomas had a down year in 2020. His frustrating early-season injury derailed the entire campaign and it’s understandable for shot-callers around the NFL to have doubts, or at least curiosity, on where his career goes from here. But some of the reasoning relayed to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler in a survey ranking the league’s best wide receivers leaves something to be desired.

“Playing to his strengths means he needs an accurate quarterback, and Drew Brees is the most accurate quarterback in history,” one anonymous team executive told Fowler of Thomas, who was ranked No. 8. “Brees was perfect for him.”

The implication there is that Thomas will decline without Brees throwing to him. And it doesn’t hold up after a couple seconds of research. In 10 career games without Brees (not counting his early exit in 2019 Week 2 against the Rams, when Thomas went 10-of-13 for 89 yards, or the second half in 2020 Week 10 where Thomas finished 2-of-7 for 27 yards) Thomas totaled 77 receptions for 923 yards.

That averages out to 7.7 catches and 92.3 receiving yards per game, and extrapolates over 16 games to 123 receptions for 1,476 yards. Only Stefon Diggs beat those numbers last year (127 catches and 1,535 yards). And remember, there are 17 regular season games now. For the curious, Thomas has clocked 7.3 receptions and 85.0 receiving yards per game in his career. Those numbers went up — however slightly — with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill throwing to him.

Also, for the hand wringing about how well Thomas benefited from Brees’ prolific accuracy — his completion percentage jumped up to 80.2% in those 10 games without Brees compared to his career catch rate of 77.6%. Raw percentages like that aren’t the best measure of accuracy or a receiver’s sure hands, but it’s something to think about.

Maybe Thomas isn’t able to recover from this ankle injury. Maybe, despite this evidence to the contrary, he isn’t as successful with Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston or someone else as he was with Brees. But there’s ample evidence to suggest his career arc is ready to snap back up and continue its great trajectory. Anyone writing him off right now hasn’t done their homework.

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