New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton confirmed Wednesday morning that receiver Michael Thomas had a setback on his surgically repaired ankle, and Thomas took to social media to announce that it will keep him sidelined for the entirety of the 2021 season.
"I think it's accurate to say there was a setback," Payton said. "And it wasn't anything of his – he's working his tail off – and the setback had more to do with the procedure he had initially that was done. As they went through the scans, there's a chance that he may have to have another procedure done.
"I think that Michael is working his tail off to get healthy and become available, and I think that this isn't anything that he can control. It has more to do with the tightrope procedure, and what that is, is a procedure that strengthens the ankle after you've had a significant injury to that area. So the setback is really surgically related, and we'll kind of go from there."
Thomas played in seven regular-season games, and both playoff games, last season after injuring his ankle in the regular-season opener against Tampa Bay. He was inactive six games and on injured reserve for the final three regular-season games – he caught 40 passes for 438 yards in the regular season – before rejoining the active roster for the playoffs.
He had surgery to repair the injury in June, and has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list all season.
"I've always been a man of faith and these past few months my faith has been truly tested," Thomas wrote on the social media post. "As many of you know, early last season I injured my ankle and I worked extremely hard over the next few months to get back in time to finish the season. Unfortunately the rehab didn't go as planned and earlier this off-season it was apparent I would need to have a procedure to repair the injury.
"Since then, the team and I have worked diligently, day and night to rehab and get me back on the field. Unfortunately, there has been another small setback which we will have to address. To my displeasure, I will not be able to make it back in time for this season but will do everything in my power to get back to the player I have always been."
In 2019, Thomas set an NFL single-season record with 149 catches, and was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
New Orleans didn't make a move to bolster the position at the trade deadline on Tuesday, and Payton said there was no fervent dash to do so.
"When the trade deadline comes, we'll take a peek at what we think are players that may be available via trade, and we look at them," he said. "If you feel like you have a good team, you're paying attention to really all positions, just based on who might be trading players. So we've looked at receivers in the trade deadline. We've looked at quarterbacks. We've looked at defensive tackles. We've looked at a number of players just because there's a feeling that this team might be willing to move this player – tight end, receiver, safety.
"You approach that a little, if you have an interest, like free agency. You look and do your homework, it's hard because it's in-season so it's taking away – if you're looking at film of a receiver, you're still getting ready for a game that week. That's not unusual, but that's as far as that went."
He also said that he remains confident in the receivers that the Saints currently have on the roster.
"I thought they had a good game (against Tampa Bay)," he said. "We've got some younger guys. I think the addition of Kenny Stills has helped us, I think Deonte (Harris) being back has helped us, I think Kevin White is continuing to get better. I think Lil'Jordan Humphrey – his experience and size and strength. Marquez (Callaway). Tre'Quan (Smith) is back.
"These guys are tough, they're competitive, and I like them. I'm not interested in your PFF grades or any of that other stuff. It just is what it is. I like this group. Obviously, you're better if you have Mike Thomas in that group, but we don't right now. And we don't have Jameis (Winston) at the quarterback position, and we don't' have a few other things. And that's just how our league can be sometimes."