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New Orleans Saints prepared to forge ahead if Michael Thomas cannot play

'Everybody takes pride in knowing what to do in case somebody goes down'

Pregame photos from the New Orleans Saints playing host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.
Pregame photos from the New Orleans Saints playing host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.

On Thursday, the only concrete declaration that could be made regarding New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas was that Thomas, the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 and a two-time All-Pro, did not practice due to an ankle injury.

But if the Saints, 1-0 entering their Monday night football road game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nev., are forced to face the Raiders (1-0) without the NFL record holder for single-season receptions (149 last season), they have the mentality to do so.

It wouldn't be the first time New Orleans has missed a critical component, or two, and managed to navigate around the absence.

Last season, running back Alvin Kamara missed two games, and the Saints beat Chicago and Arizona. And, also last season, quarterback Drew Brees missed five games and the Saints beat Seattle, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Chicago in his absence.

"Every week, guys are ready to play," Kamara explained. "Unfortunately with Mike, we don't know the status, but it's a next man up mentality. Guys in practice and working hard, everybody takes pride in knowing what to do in case somebody goes down. Drew went down last year. I went down. It is what it is, you've got to keep moving."

"We definitely have a next man up mentality," Brees said. "I think everybody's always ready to step into a role and fill that role. I think our coaching staff does a great job of putting guys in the best position to succeed, and building a gameplan around the strengths of the guys we do have."

If Thomas is unable to play against the Raiders, it would mark just the second missed game in his five seasons. The last time he was unable to go, because of a foot injury, was Dec. 11, 2016, against Tampa Bay.

LONG BALL: Brees said the Saints had a couple of near-misses on deep pass attempts in Sunday's 34-23 victory over Tampa Bay in the season opener. "We're always ready to move the football to sustain long drives and score points that way," he said. "It's always nice when you can make big plays along the way. I'd say we had two opportunities for big plays where we just had breakdowns and we just weren't able to get the ball out. Maybe three opportunities. Man, those would have been nice, and so as you look at the tape you say, 'All right, we've got to maximize those opportunities when we get them.' "

ALVIN IS ALVIN: Kamara admittedly played a good portion of last season banged up but throughout training camp, he appeared to have regained his pop. Nothing happened in the season opener to contradict that. "I feel back to normal," he said. "I forgot what it felt like to play healthy, so I'm definitely excited about that moving forward."

INJURY REPORT: In addition to Thomas missing practice due to his ankle injury, also missing practice were defensive end Marcus Davenport (elbow) and receiver Emmanuel Sanders (not injury related). Rookie offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis, and defensive back P.J. Williams (hamstring) returned to full practice.

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