Sean Payton Throws Michael Thomas Under the Bus Regarding the Timing of His Surgery

Injuries and surgeries happen in the NFL. It is just a fact of the game. When these things happen, the time a player loses that hurts their team is almost always unavoidable. In the case of New Orleans Saints star wide receiver Michael Thomas, who’s out for at least the first few weeks of the 2021 NFL season after ankle surgery, the missed games may have been avoidable. At least according to his coach, Sean Payton.

Michael Thomas will miss games in 2021 due to ankle surgery

Head Coach Sean Payton and Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints on the field before a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Saints defeated the Titans 38-28.
(L-R) Michael Thomas and Sean Payton | Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL season should have been another great one for Michael Thomas. The former Ohio State Buckeye was coming off back-to-back All-Pro seasons and led the league in receptions (149), yards (1,725), and yards per game (107.8) in 2019.

Unfortunately for Tomas and the Saints, he missed the majority of Drew Brees’ last season with an ankle injury. He missed six of the first seven games in 2020, then struggled through six relatively ineffective weeks before shutting it down in Week 14. He didn’t score a single touchdown the entire season.

His last game in Week 13 came on December 13, 2020. That date made it somewhat shocking when Thomas announced that he had ankle surgery in June. The four-plus month recovery timeline means that the star wideout won’t be back until Week 4 at the very earliest.  

Saints coach Sean sounded frustrated discussing the timing of Thomas’ surgery

When the news first broke, no one was sure whether the surgery was a second procedure to correct something that didn’t work or if Thomas just put the surgery off in order to enjoy his offseason.

Listening to Payton during his training camp-opening press conference, it certainly sounds like the latter might be the case. The long-time Saints coach told reporters, per ESPN:

Well, look, it appears we’re gonna have to spend some time without him. It’s disappointing, and we’ll work through it with the other players that are here. But the surgery took place, and obviously we would’ve liked that to happen earlier than later. And quite honestly, it should’ve.

Sean Payton on Michael Thomas

Throwing a star player under the bus like this isn’t something NFL coaches usually do. Being this transparent and blunt with the media seems to indicate that Payton is quite frustrated with Thomas and his lack of urgency to get the offseason surgery.

Payton and the Saints desperately need Thomas in 2021 

One of the likely reasons for Payton’s frustration is that 2021 is a monumental year for the New Orleans Saints.

After the 2005 season, the franchise fired coach Jim Haslett and released quarterback Aaron Brooks. That offseason, the team hired New York Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton and signed former San Diego Chargers QB Drew Brees. Since then, the Saints are 143-81 with a Super Bowl win.

Now, Payton and the Saints face their first season without the recently retired Brees. There will be a QB competition for the first time in a decade and a half in the Big Easy between quarterback/Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill and former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston.

No matter who wins the battle this offseason, Payton and the team now know their QB1 will be without their best pass-catcher for at least the few games of the season. This doesn’t bode well for a tea trying to keep up in a division that features the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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