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John DeShazier: Saints receiver Michael Thomas going full speed at Pro Bowl

Posted Jan 25, 2018

Thomas: 'I’ve got to handle my business. I can’t drop the ball and I’ve got to run precise routes.'

Orlando – There is no “off” button.

So if you’re thinking/hoping/believing that New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas is going to throttle down this week during Pro Bowl practice at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, or that he’s going to spend time going half-speed while he smells the roses, well, you’re not all that familiar with Thomas.

Yes, he’s smiling, and feeling blessed, and happy to be representing the NFC along with six of his teammates and his Saints coaching staff.

But Thomas doesn’t know any speed other than “full.”

So it wasn’t at all odd that he didn’t have his cell phone handy on the field Wednesday or Thursday (it’s allowed, perhaps even encouraged, at the Pro Bowl). And he wasn’t wearing a bucket hat, visor or baseball cap.

There were no sunglasses to combat the glare (though that could change for the game, since Thomas is allowed to wear a visor with his helmet due to being poked in the eye against Atlanta on Dec. 7). And he wasn’t much for the three-quarters speed pace that sometimes can creep into drills.

“It’s a football field, man,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of in me. It’s in my DNA, it’s my makeup. It’s how I started, it’s what’s gotten me here and I can’t really change now.

“I’m in it, I’m at the Pro Bowl in my second year and I can’t really change what I did to get here, I only can enhance it. When I line up between these lines, I’ve got to handle my business. I can’t drop the ball and I’ve got to run precise routes.”

Thomas is an expert lecturer, and performer, on those finer points.

This season, he caught a franchise-record 104 passes – no Saints receiver ever had topped 100 – and was credited with just two drops. He set the NFL record for most receptions in the first two seasons (196).

Thomas has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons (1,137 in 2016 and 1,245 this season) and in New Orleans’ two playoff games, he caught 15 passes for 216 yards and two scores.

The competitor in him, and the perfectionist, simply won’t allow for slack.

“Ima go hard,” Thomas said of his first Pro Bowl, a game in which, during the past, players haven’t always been accused of putting forth maximum effort. “That’s all I know. So, ima go hard. I’m not going to pump myself up or hype myself up, but I’m going to do my job and handle my business.”

Seriousness aside, though, Thomas also recognized the array of excellence that dots the roster.

“It’s a blessing to be around such tremendous talent across the board,” he said. “When you look at it, I’m talking to all these guys, I’ve had an opportunity to play against them – played against a couple of them twice, four times.

“These are the guys that make you watch extra film. These are the guys that keep you on it. These are the guys that coach is getting on you about, being at the right depth, being at the right place at the right time. These are those guys that help you elevate your game, and these are the guys that make you want to do more, get that extra rep, watch that extra film. I like being around them.”

There’s the added benefit also of being around his teammates and coaching staff. This is a week that the Saints hoped would involve Super Bowl preparations, so having the band back together – even partially – after the loss to Minnesota in the Divisional Playoff round is comforting.

“It feels great,” Thomas said. “I miss those guys, I would be lying to you if I’m not saying that. I miss them. I wanted to be playing in the Super Bowl, and that was the goal, but we didn’t make it. But we were still able to get some of our guys here.

“You miss that locker room, you miss those teammates because I’m surrounded by a great locker room in New Orleans – competitors, the locker room is fun. Those are like my brothers, so to have as many of them here – we’re trying to get as many of them here as possible – and then to have my coaching staff, I feel like that’s just the icing on the cake because they deserve credit too.

“They grind it out with us, too, they’re putting in a lot of hours that could go unnoticed because they’re not on the field, but they’re putting us in position to make plays. So I feel like they’re reaping the benefits, too, so it’s a blessing.”

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