Keyshawn Johnson Defends His Nephew Michael Thomas Despite Rift With the New Orleans Saints: ‘He Got Out There on Bad Wheels’

The New Orleans Saints just received some disheartening news from their star wide receiver. Michael Thomas suffered an injury setback and won’t be suiting up for the team in 2021. After a tumultuous offseason, Thomas’ future with the Saints is up in the air. The wideout’s uncle, former Super Bowl champion Keyshawn Johnson, is defending Thomas’ commitment to the team.

Saints WR Michael Thomas will miss the entire 2021 season

Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas took to Twitter to announce that he would miss the entire 2021 NFL season.

Thomas suffered a left ankle injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season. According to ESPN, he underwent surgery in the offseason before the 2021 season to repair multiple ligaments.

The New Orleans Saints expected their star wideout to return to the field in October, but he’s suffered a setback. Now, Sean Payton’s squad will need to try and make a playoff run without one of its best players.

The bad news just continues to pile up for the Saints, who just lost quarterback Jameis Winston for the season with a torn ACL in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Without Thomas in the lineup, New Orleans hasn’t been able to find a consistent receiving threat. Marquez Callaway got some buzz in the preseason but hasn’t enjoyed nearly the same success in regular-season action. Tre’Quan Smith has appeared in only two games, and the team needs more from him.

The injuries to Thomas and Winston place even more pressure on the shoulders of Alvin Kamara. As good of a running back as Kamara is, he needs talent around him if the Saints are going to make a run.

New Orleans expected to have Michael Thomas for the second half but will need to audible quickly.

Keyshawn Johnson defends his nephew despite criticism

ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson talks during a broadcast; Saints WR Michael Thomas on the field during a game
ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson looks on before an NFL game | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images; New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas takes the field before game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Will Vragovic/Getty Images

Michael Thomas reportedly delayed his ankle surgery after the 2020 season. According to Sports Illustrated, that was just one of many instances which raised some red flags about his status for 2021 and his potential future in New Orleans.

Keyshawn Johnson played 11 seasons in the NFL before becoming an analyst for ESPN. He’s also Thomas’ uncle.

Johnson joined ESPN’s First Take to discuss the news and what it means for Thomas and the Saints. The former three-time Pro Bowler cautioned people against blaming his nephew for the clash between his nephew and the Saints organization.

“He was hurt in the playoffs. He played hurt in the playoffs,” said Johnson. “Then he wanted to get a second and third opinion in the offseason. Not him, them. See, people don’t understand that because only one side says it.”

Johnson doesn’t like how the media is portraying Thomas as a bad guy. “I ain’t gonna let my family just dangle out there,” he said. “When you make the decision to finally do it in June, they made it collectively. It wasn’t all on him.”

The former USC standout suggests the Saints knew Thomas wouldn’t be back, so they tried to trade for Odell Beckham Jr.

The ESPN analyst defended Thomas’ commitment to the Saints. “The man played on two bad ankles in the playoffs,” said Johnson. “If he wanted to out on the team, he would’ve done it in the playoffs. He got out there on bad wheels.”

Johnson put Michael Thomas fans at ease in a few words. “He’ll be fine,” he added.

As talented as Thomas is, New Orleans may need to move on

When healthy, Michael Thomas is one of the most talented wide receivers in the game today.

The New Orleans Saints drafted Thomas in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. He immediately stepped into the league and established himself as a true No. 1 receiver catching passes from Drew Brees.

Thomas recorded four straight seasons of more than 90 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards. He led the NFL in receptions in 2018 and 2019 and receiving yards in 2019.

The Los Angeles, California native has earned three Pro Bowl selections and won the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award in 2019.

When he’s been on the field, production hasn’t been an issue. The chemistry with his teammates and coaches has become a point of concern recently, though.

Thomas was engaged in an altercation with safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in 2020, which was a red flag. The offseason’s events only further fractured the relationship between the wideout and the Saints.

From a football perspective, New Orleans needs Michael Thomas. However, the two sides may never regain trust in one another.

The Saints should strongly consider moving on from their injured star after the 2021 season.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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