There remains the compelling, nearly undebatable argument that NFL defensive backs still can't guard Michael Thomas. That much appeared to be evident during his three games on the field with the New Orleans Saints this season.
But another injury again was able to do what defensive backs have not against Thomas – take him away from New Orleans' offense.
The Saints placed the seven-year receiver on injured reserve Thursday due to a toe injury that will require surgery to repair, likely ending his 2022 season after three games.
"After consultation with the doctors, we had a plan in place, we followed what the doctors thought would be the best plan for him," Coach Dennis Allen said. "Obviously, the toe did not respond exactly how we were hoping.
"I think everybody – from our medical people, from Mike Thomas – I think everybody tried extremely hard to rehab the toe, thinking that we would be able to get him back. It didn't respond the way that we wanted it to, so Michael Thomas is going to go on IR and he'll have surgery to repair that toe."
Thomas, the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, missed much of 2020 and all of last season due to an ankle injury that ultimately required surgery. And after vigorous rehabilitation this offseason, he joined the team in training camp first as a participant in individual drills, and then as a standout in team drills.
He caught five passes for 81 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the season-opening, 27-26 victory over Atlanta, during which the Saints set a franchise record with their 16-point, fourth-quarter comeback. And Thomas caught another six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown, and five passes for 49 yards in Week 3 against Carolina.
But he injured the toe during that game, and never made it back to the field.
"Dislocated second toe," Allen said of the injury. "I think Mike worked his tail off and did everything he possibly could to try to rehab it. This is just something that happens from time to time. It didn't respond the way we wanted it to, so we felt like surgery was the best option to go ahead and repair it and get him healthy.
"I think he's disappointed. He put a ton into this to try to get himself back. He's been an outstanding teammate, he's worked extremely hard to rehab it. There's just some things that you don't have any control over, and this is one of those things.
"We followed what the doctor's recommendation in terms of trying to rehab it and give him an opportunity to play through it. We went in and had another MRI the other day, and it just hasn't healed the way that everybody was kind of hoping that it would. And so, surgery is the next option."
Allen said that while he couldn't totally be definitive, he didn't anticipate the two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler returning this season.
"Obviously, we know what Mike has been able to do in this offense and we'd love to have him out there," said quarterback Andy Dalton, who stepped into the starting lineup in Week 4, when Thomas was sidelined. "But for him, the most important thing is getting healthy at this point.
"I think for us, it would be harder if Mike was out there and then all of a sudden we lost him. Especially for me, personally. I've been playing with this group for a while now, we understand our group. But we obviously want Mike back out here because of the type of talent that he's got and the things he can do to help us."
MOVES: In addition to placing Thomas on injured reserve, the Saints also signed quarterback Brett Hundley and defensive back Bryce Thompson to the practice squad, and designated defensive back P.J. Williams to return to practice from IR.
Hundley, a fifth-round draft pick by Green Bay in 2015, played for the Packers in '16-'17 and the Cardinals in '19. He made nine starts for the Packers in '17, and hasn't played in a regular-season game since '19.
"He's an athletic quarterback," Allen said. "Him being in this week gives us an opportunity to work him on the scout team quarterback and get a chance to see what he can do. We played against him before. He's an athletic quarterback, he can throw the ball really well. Just somebody that we wanted to take a look at and I think he can give us a good look on the scout team."