This is how the triumphant return of Michael Thomas was built after an absence of 20 months

This is how the triumphant return of Michael Thomas was built after an absence of 20 months

With two key touchdowns for the Saints victory, the wide receiver put the exclamation mark on one of the NFL’s most anticipated comebacks

METAIRIE — One of the first actions of Dennis Allen as head coach of New Orleans Saintsflew to Angels in the offseason to get to know the wide receiver better Michael Thomas.

Thomas I dine with Allen and his wife. And, they spent time learning about each other’s mindsets and expectations, and what makes them “pop,” according to Thomaswho described it as a “great bonding experience”.

Allenwho previously served as the defensive coordinator for the SaintsHe said it was important ’cause he just wasn’t there Thomas along with other players in recent years, while recovering from a left ankle injury that wiped out his entire 2021 season.

Allen also identified that a healthy relationship with his enigmatic yet electric superstar would be just as important as the return of a Thomas healthy on the ground.

Sure, Thomas answered in a beautiful way during the first victory of Allen on Sunday, catching two touchdown passes in the second half as New Orleans came from behind for a 27-26 win over division rivals Atlanta Falcons. And the first words of Thomas after the game they were, “I love this organization, I love these guys, I love my team.”

The recent offseason was very different from last year, when the Saints there Thomas they disagreed on his decision to delay his ankle surgery until June. There has been an undeniable change in the mentality of Thomas.

Thomas He said he felt more appreciated, “100 per cent”, after a nearly 20-month absence between games.

“You can’t take it for granted,” he said. Thomas a ESPN. “Once the Saints they offered me my second contract [antes de la campaña del 2019]there was a pact there, to add value to that team, to keep the Saints hang pennants high and compete for championships. And I have a big role in this team.

“So not being there to add that value, whenever you get that second chance, I always figured I’d make the most of it and find a way to give back.”

You can see this strategy in the interviews of Thomas with the media, their use of social networks and their interactions with their peers. Those close to him say it was also evident behind the scenes.

“He’s in a big space,” the Los Angeles quarterbacks coach warned. Saints, Ronald Currywho was previously a positional coach for Thomas. “I think he enjoys the game a bit more. Not that he didn’t at first, but it seems like the game means a lot more to him now. You know, he missed playing. You you could tell by his energy, his focus, when he’s out there competing.”

Allen he said that Thomas He “did everything we asked of him”.

Mike It was awesome,” he said. Allen. “…He just wants to win. And he’s hyper-focused on being the best he can be for this football team.”

NOT MANY DOUBTS What Thomas He would come back in revenge mode. He attacked his entire football career this way, earning a reputation as one of the most intense competitors in the game. NFLfueled by every perceived contempt.

But, this competitive fire is legendary and notorious.

The former quarterback of Saints, Drew Breesnever compared to Thomas con Darren Sproles like weird teammates who treated every rep in practice like it was the superbowl. The former head coach Sean Payton once joked that he felt like he had been hit by a car when he made the mistake of lining up as a defensive back against Thomas during a session simulation.

It is this mentality that led him to impose a brand of NFL with 149 receptions and the awarding of Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, helping the huge 6-foot-3, 212-pound receiver live up to the hype of his Twitter handle,”Can’t keep Mike“, which he created when he was in ohio state.

However, that mindset has led to volatility over the years, including several Twitter spats with opponents and a one-game suspension in 2020 for punching his former teammate, CJ Gardner Johnson, during a practice, and respond to coaches afterwards. Moreover, this led to last year’s dispute with the Saintswhen Thomas he didn’t like the way he was thrown while recovering from an injury.

Thomas he first injured his ankle in Week 1 of the 2020 season, but returned to play eight games, including the playoffs, battling the injury. The Saints surgery recommended to repair torn deltoid and other injured ligaments immediately after 2020 season, but Thomas he preferred to rehabilitate the ankle.

The bone Saints approved of the move, but sources have confirmed multiple reports that the team got upset when he had trouble communicating with Thomas throughout the spring, and when they couldn’t see how his ankle was progressing until June, when he finally had surgery.

Payton, who retired last offseason, publicly expressed his disappointment. Then, after several reports suggesting that Thomas was responsible for the delay, posting on social media: “They tried to damage your reputation. You saved theirs by not telling your side of the story.”

Thomas also “liked” several posts on Twitter suggesting that Saints they forced him to play through the injury without surgery in 2019, before blaming him for not being healthy.

However, this tension dissipated after a productive telephone conversation between Payton there Thomas, and the receiver returned to the team during his rehabilitation at the start of the season. He was on the mend for about half a season before suffering a season-ending recovery setback, a separate but related issue in the same ankle that required another surgery.

Thomas he eventually resumed training at the start of training camp in late July. It was then that he made his first public statements regarding his decision to delay surgery, saying, “We can put that aside, now.”

“It’s like when you go to one doctor, you get one opinion. You go to two doctors, one person has one opinion, another person has another opinion. You have to choose the right opinion,” Thomas he explained. “So if one of the opinions is ‘You can rehab the ankle, and it should be fine for camp’ and I’ve never had an operation, then I’m going to stick with that. If that doesn’t doesn’t work, so I’m going with the second one”.

Thomas did not explain in detail why he had not contacted Saints during this period. But, he made comments suggesting doctors don’t always get it right. And, he made several suggestions that media reports exaggerate the truth.

“People have to try to create stories, which I guess comes with who you are. But other than that, a lot of that stuff is just plain silly. It’s a lot of ‘he said, she said’ and things you can’t control.” warned Thomas. “They even tried to do it with me and Sean Payton, and all that. I still have a great relationship with Sean. I have a lot of respect for all my coaches. I grew up in a home with a family for whom respect is important.”

THIS FAMILY, ACCORDING TO THOMASwas also a big motivator during what he called a second chance.

Thomas said he spent more time than usual surrounded by those around him at home while in rehab. And, he said he came to appreciate more that he was a “shining light” in a footballing family that always rallied around football. the uncle of Thomas, Keyshawn JohnsonHe was also a star receiver for NFL.

After a year filled with so much negativity, Thomas he said he knew he wanted to “come back and make them proud and make them smile”.

“I come from a strong family. I feel like I’ve seen my family fight through things much harder than what I’m going through,” he said. Thomas. “And I know that the fact that I play this sport makes them proud. And I’m very proud of that.”

One thing that was never questioned Thomas It’s your work ethic. “Finding a way to improve when no one is watching has always been my niche,” he said.

The rookie wide receiver for the Saints, Chris Olavesaw it with my own eyes when Thomas took him under his wing during the summer, inviting the colleague from Buckeyes to train together on their common base in the south California.

“He’s very disciplined,” he admitted. Olive. “When someone doesn’t do the right thing, it challenges you.”

When asked if this caught his attention, Olive he smiles shyly.

“Oh yeah, a few times,” he admitted. “He’s a real friend though.

“Waking up late for a session or waking up late for breakfast, he won’t let go. I respect that. I like that. It’s going to make me better and help push me. That’s what makes him separate.”

Thomas pointed out the bracelets he’s been wearing for years that say “Self-Discipline,” one of the core values ​​he said he espoused during his year at college. Fork Union Military Academy before registering ohio state.

“It was a big turning point in my life, where I had to leave my house on my own to enter an environment like that,” he recalls. Thomaswho said he gravitated to tough coaches and was lucky to play under Allen, Payton, Urban Meyer –in ohio state–, and their high school coaches.

“That’s the whole point of this game, to evolve, to raise your game and win games,” he said. Thomas. “I love collaborating with these guys and trying to be one of the best players they’ve ever managed and trying to set that example, that standard.”

the visit of Allen a California paid off in the form of a Week 1 win, thanks in part to Thomas. The wide receiver said last week that he was trying to complete a historic 2019 season.

And, when asked if Sunday’s five catches for 57 yards and two second-half touchdowns lived up to his expectations, he replied: “That’s definitely not my standard…I I still have a lot of work to do.”

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