The NFL's all-time leader in receptions over the first three seasons of his career didn't report with the New Orleans Saints' veterans for training camp Thursday. Receiver Michael Thomas and the Saints currently are engaged in contract negotiations as Thomas enters the fourth, and final, year of his rookie deal.
But there is no sign of contentiousness between the sides, as the Saints prepare to take the field for the first practice Friday minus Thomas, who caught 321 passes (for 3,787 yards and 23 touchdowns) over his first 47 regular-season games.
"It's been professional," Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said. "He's got good representation, they've been very professional and I like to think we're professional about it as well.
"I'm not disappointed in him. He has a right to negotiate, and accept or decline as he sees fit. I don't like the fact that he has a contract and he's not here, but I'm not mad about it. That's just the way it is."
Thomas' franchise-record 125 receptions last year accounted for 33 percent of New Orleans' 381 completions, and his 1,405 receiving yards totaled 34 percent.
"I think it's something that, hopefully, will be resolved soon," Coach Sean Payton said. "And it was more common, I think, back when some of these picks weren't slotted, more common with rookie players. But I think his agent, Mickey, those guys are working on it. I'm optimistic it'll be done fairly soon.
"I'm sure those guys are working on it. The focus that I have now obviously is on the players that are here."
The players who have reported completed conditioning tests Thursday, and Payton said he was pleased with the results. But, mainly, the absence of Thomas was the most prominent development.
"It's a negotiation, it's a lot of give and take and then ultimately, the urgency that you'd like to have happen in February, March, April or May ends up getting gotten to before or during training camp," Loomis said. "It's just the nature of the business."
Loomis said that even though Thomas has a year remaining on his contract, he understood the stance.
"It bothers me, because it's a reflection on the job that we do," Loomis said. "In a perfect world, this would be done and we'd both feel either real good about it or both feel real bad about it, and he'd be in here working. One thing I know: I know Mike Thomas wants to be here, so it's not a question of him not wanting to be here.
"This is not specific to Mike's deal, it's true for all of them. You just have a different viewpoint on what market value is. And then you also have to factor in what's right for your team as well. But I understand that thinking. He wants to be paid the value that he perceives himself."
POSITIVE STRIDES: Payton said that receiver Cameron Meredith, who was limited to nine receptions in six games last season before he was shut down with a nagging knee ailment that required surgery, completed his conditioning test and is ready for training camp. "This will be an important camp for him," Payton said. "I'm sure he's excited, so the key is getting the work in. He's going to have an opportunity, too. There's that balance of being smart. There's a handful of players that are coming into training camp full (go), and yet we've got to be smart as we bring them back to that workload."