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The New Orleans Saints are bracing for the return of an elite receiver.
Michael Thomas participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in almost two years on Saturday.
Thomas has been out since the tail end of the 2020 season with an ankle injury, and he suffered a setback during the 2021 season.
Head coach Dennis Allen said Thomas is gaining confidence in the strength of his ankle.
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“Honestly, there was a couple of times he ended up on the ground,” Allen said, via ESPN.
“That’s all part of the process in building that confidence. I think he’s in a good mindset right now. I think he looks good physically. I’m excited about where he’s at.”
Thomas led the NFL in catches in 2018 and 2019, setting the NFL record for most receptions in a season (149) in 2019. He also led the NFL with 1,729 receiving yards that season and was named the Offensive Player of the Year.
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In each of his four NFL seasons, Thomas totaled at least 90 catches and 1,100 yards, with both of those numbers increasing by the year. He’s averaged 118 catches, 1,378 yards and eight touchdowns per season.
He played in just seven games in 2020, and he last played Jan. 17, 2021 in the NFC Divisional Round against the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Thomas did not participate in OTAs in June but has been practicing, although limited, since the first day of training camp.
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The Saints will open the season in Atlanta against the Falcons, and Thomas will have to develop a rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston. Thomas last played when Drew Brees was still the Saints’ QB.