Saints-Lions Injury Reports: Michael Thomas returns to practice but 3 Saints starters sit out

  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
Michael Thomas
(Photo: Parker Waters)

After missing the past two weeks with a high ankle sprain, Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas returned to practice Wednesday.

Thomas was limited but it is a sign of progress toward his potential return to the lineup this Sunday at Detroit (1-2).

Meanwhile, three New Orleans starters – cornerback Janoris Jenkins (illness – unspecified), tight end Jared Cook (groin) and left guard Andrus Peat (ankle) – were not present and did not practice. Cook and Peat were injured in the loss to Green Bay this past Sunday night.

Other starters limited Wednesday include defensive end Marcus Davenport (elbow) and defensive tackle David Onyemata (calf). Davenport has yet to make his season debut after returning to practice last week.

Perhaps of even greater concern for New Orleans (1-2), Marshon Lattimore (hamstring), the other Saints starting cornerback, was also limited. Hamstring issues have been an area of concern for Lattimore dating back to his days at Ohio State.

Like Thomas, reserve linebacker Chase Hansen (hip) returned to practice in a limited capacity after missing the last two weeks.

On the flip side, the Lions are getting healthier than they’ve been early in the season. Only four Detroit players were on their injury list, and safety C.J. Moore (calf) was the only one who missed practice.

Rookie tight end Hunter Bryant (hamstring) and veteran starting cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring) may return to action Sunday after long absences. Both were listed as limited Wednesday. Bryant hasn’t played yet this season and Trufant has missed the past two games.

Defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand (chest) was also limited for Detroit.

The Saints face the Lions at noon Sunday.

New Orleans Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Opening Statement: “Yesterday, the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation kicked off one of our initiatives this year we’re doing in South Jersey and in New Orleans. We’re trying to feed people as COVID and tropical storms and things like that hit Louisiana, there’s a huge need for food insecurity and we’re trying to get people fed. So I have an initiative, ‘Feeding the 504’ where yesterday we fed 557 families with over 25,000 pounds of food through our partners Winn-Dixie, Second Harvest Food Bank and Broadmoor Improvement Association Pantry. And we’re just encouraging people to continue to support the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, they can donate at or directly to Second Harvest Food Bank or Broadmoor Improvement Association Pantry. What we’re trying to do throughout the year is feed 504 families per month, as we move throughout this year, and just all of this food insecurity that’s going on. One in four children are dealing with food insecurity and that is a huge piece. So, I’ll open it up to questions.”

Were you and your foundation able to receive feedback from the families on how they were positively impacted by yesterday’s event?
“Well, we’ve done things around food almost every year. We call it our ‘Get Ready Fest’ and this year it’s just a huge emphasis. And oftentimes, a lot of people are dealing with need and being able to get those resources directly to them and bringing it to them, oftentimes help. Sometimes people have trouble getting access to some of the resources that are out there and that is especially significant and important at this time, where people are dealing with unemployment and dealing with the stresses of COVID. Getting those resources directly to them is a huge help.”

Because of COVID and the restrictions and everything, has that been more challenging to kind of do these initiatives?
“A little bit, there’s a lot more logistically that you have to work out and myself, I’m so used to being directly hands on and I haven’t been able to do that throughout the offseason, and of course, now during the season, but that’s why you have teams. I think the foundation and all of our volunteers, Winn-Dixie, our food pantries that we have been supporting have done a great job of facilitating this initiative to be able to get these resources to these families in need. Because while it’s tougher to connect and do these things logistically, the need’s even more than it’s been before. So, it’s important work.”

After the game, you mentioned a little bit about some of the issues you guys were having on defense, just getting stuff sorted out. Just having a couple days to look at it, have you been able to pinpoint maybe a couple things that might help with the eye discipline and making sure you guys are making the switches and stuff you need to make?
“Yeah, I think it’s really just being intentional about how we go about practice and the things that we’re improving on week to week. I think as the dust settled and we had a few days to look at the tape and digest it, we were encouraged, because we felt like we played with more energy and played faster than we did the week before. And there were definitely improvements. But there were, five, six plays where we didn’t have much discipline, we didn’t do things that we wanted to do when against a really good team and good quarterback. Those things cost you so it’s about just narrowing down and fine tuning some of the finer details, tighten down the communication, making sure that we limit those plays.”

For a veteran team that’s played together for a while I know you’re kind of coming back in, but how does something like that get away from a team when it really hasn’t been an issue the last couple years with mostly the same guys?
“I am the new guy in town, but those things you can’t take for granted. Communication, eye discipline, things like that are not things that are just automatic. You’ve got to continue to work at it, continue to change and as defenses evolve and the intricacies of your defense evolve, so do those things, the communication. And so, it’s just something that we have to dive back onto because like you said, this is a veteran group that’s played together for a while, but sometimes those things happen.”

You are staying in the tunnel during the national anthem, just wanted to ask you about your choice behind doing that giving you a platform to comment on that.
“Yeah, I just think there is too much dialogue about the symbolism of the anthem, what is right, what is wrong, who is doing what, who is not doing what, and it takes away and distracts from the actual issues and calls to action that are very, very necessary right now. And so, I don’t want to participate in creating any kind of distraction.”

You listed the causes, communication and the discipline, but is there one issue that is the one thing you think the defense or the secondary has to get fixed most in particular? It seems it’s been kind of rotating issues, it was the tight end (Darren Waller) in week two, it was the deep pass in week three, are PI penalties standing out? Or is there any one or two issues that are on the top of your must fix list?
“No, I think there are plays here or there that I think the biggest thing we see is the communication. And just making sure for 80 plays, 90 plays, whatever it is that for all of them we have tight communication, we don’t have these five, six plays that got away from us. I think another thing just as a team that we’re dealing with, and especially defensively, is penalties, but when we go back and watch a lot of them, especially some of the pass interference calls, it’s really hard to coach the guys to do anything different. We don’t want to slow ourselves down and stop competing, we just try to do it in a way that doesn’t draw flags. Some of those calls we’ll live with, we’re not going to tell guys (to stop) competing. So, the biggest thing that we can control is our communication and making sure that our eyes are disciplined in some of those play actions.”

Also the most interesting horse collar penalty you’ve ever seen?
“(Laughter) Yeah, it is one of those (where) you just have to move on to the next (play). Those guys are human too. And so they miss them sometimes.”

You’ve been on the on the wrong side of it fairly recently. I’m just wondering when Alvin (Kamara’s) going is good as he’s going right now, how hard is that for a defender to just try to be in his path?
“Yeah, he showed I think last week why he’s such a danger, not only as a running back, but out of the backfield as a receiver as well, just being elusive in open space and it’s really just looking effortless. I think that’s what makes him such a special player. Obviously, he’s been kind of the beating heart of our offense, and we’ll continue to lean on him to make those plays.”

I know you’ve said you’re the new guy kind of again on the block, but you were brought in here for your leadership. Do you feel like you have a good pulse of the locker room of knowing when you have to make the fiery speech to yell? Or when you have to pat guys on the back? Do you feel like you kind of have an understanding of how to read the room through the difficult times so to say?
“I think I’m still getting a feel for it, but the thing that I noticed immediately with my arrival is that there’s already some really strong leadership here. A lot of my role’s really assisting those guys and leading in the right direction. I don’t think it’s really necessary for me to come in and try to take over from the leadership standpoint, because I really believe in the leaders that we already have. I’m a compliment and an additional veteran in the room that can give some good perspective. So, that responsibility is a shared one, but I definitely take a lot of pride and responsibility to handle the DBs and that’s one group that I think, specifically on me, that needs to be a better job of making sure that we’re accountable to the team.”

You’ve been a part of Sean Payton-coached teams before and these attention to detail items that are kind of cropping up with you all right now is really uncharacteristic of his teams. I know he made you all delay your departure from Las Vegas to watch the tape, (and) kind of address those issues early after the Raiders game. What’s been his message to you all this week as you get ready for the Lions?
“Well, we just move on to next week. Our process never changes, right? We believe in our process that we’re going to prepare during the week, do everything we need to do in practice, have a good game plan, trust each other, go execute and the outcome, win or lose, shouldn’t change your belief in the process. So, while we haven’t gotten the result that we wanted in the last two weeks, we’re looking for areas of improvement. Did we get better in this place? I think there are places that we’ve gotten better in and it’s places that we need to continue to work. And so that’s what we’ll do. All week, the coaches will come up with a gameplan that puts the players in the best position to make plays, players will digest that, make the communications to understand it and then we’ll go execute and see what the result is on Sunday.”

Is there a sense of urgency this week you feel like just with this team being 1-2 right now?
“I think so, but the urgency is this is the next game and the only game that we have control over. And so, we very much want to make sure that we put our best effort out on the field. There’s urgency every day to get better. So, I don’t think there’s a sense of panic or anything like that or doubt, but we also understand this puts us almost a quarter of the way through the season. A lot of these games, the season moves fast, games get away from you. You can’t afford to drop ones, especially ones that you feel like you’re supposed to win. There’s definitely a little bit more urgency in getting things corrected, but far away from panicking.”

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

You guys were getting Michael (Thomas) back, even if for a limited portion on the field at practice. But what did he look like today? And I guess how comforting is it to get him back on the field?

“Yeah, he looked good. He looked really good. I know, he’s been chomping at the bit. Obviously, he’s a, he’s a guy who, you know, has never missed time, is always fighting through things throughout the season. But man, such a tough guy, a great competitor. So, great to get him back. He looked really good. So we’ll see what that role is, and go from there.”

Beyond that Alvin (Kamara) is obviously healthy. Has there been anything noticeably different about him this year?

“I mean, I think we’ve all seen him make some plays here over the last few weeks that we’re used to seeing. And yet, at the same time, it’s like there’s this extra gear, like there’s this extra juice. You see defenders take angles on him that look like, they’re going to be able to make the play and all of a sudden he gets to the edge or he breaks the tackle or whatever it might be. And you just kind of shake your head. He’s a special athlete, special talent.”

What’s the challenge of trying to plug someone in (Michael) Thomas’s spot when Thomas is likely a guy that gets like 80% of the reps in practice? And has all these plays probably designed specifically for him and 9. Like what’s the hardest thing about just trying to move on to next man up?

“Well, I’d say, at the receiver position, especially for receiver quarterback, you know, it’s time on task. So it’s, it’s that, it’s that rhythm, it’s that trust, it’s that familiarity with both them running the route and the timing and the rhythm of it. And then me seeing it, me being able to anticipate it. You know, and so, there’s so much that goes into the, the execution of the passing game or the precision of the passing game. So that takes time and, you know, even when you’ve got multiple guys on the field, obviously, they are all working in concert, they are all working together. And once again, there is a timing and a rhythm to how you are working through your progression and just all those things.”

With Michael (Thomas), even though he did play in week one, it wasn’t necessarily his typical game. I think it was his fewest catches since early 2017. Did you get a sense looking back on that game of why it played out that way? And at the same time? Is it an example of how his presence can affect a game even when he’s not getting all the balls?
“Absolutely. Listen, that game is kind of a blur. I can remember a few plays from the Tampa game. But obviously his presence is a difference. Because at any moment, he can make big plays. And he is obviously a feature guy. So, it is good to have him back.”

Remembering when Matthew Stafford made his first career start against you guys in 2009, he hasn’t won a playoff game yet. Does that show how hard it is in this league at times with his arm talent?
“Like you said, there’s a lot that goes into it. I have a ton of respect for Matt. I think he’s had a great career. I’ve always been really impressed with the way he plays. There’s no doubt he is in the top three in regards to arm talent and it has been that way ever since he’s stepped in the league. He makes some throws that you shake your head at. There’s only a handful that can make some of the throws that he makes.”

I don’t know if I’m asking it the right way, but having a guy like Mike Thomas who you know gets open in a second almost every single time and catch nearly every single pass thrown to him, does that allow you to play faster? What kind of luxury is it know you have that option?
“Once again, it’s not that easy. It’s always within the framework of the gameplan. You still go through your reads. There’s still a thought process, a mindset on every play. Certainly knowing that you have a guy like Mike and like that matchup depending on the situation, that can be kind of a big alert in your mind, definitely makes a difference.”

How close do you think this team is to putting it all together and clicking?
“We’re a few plays away on both sides of the ball and that’s usually the way it is especially early on in a season. You’re still trying to find your rhythm. It’s unfortunate that it’s more glaring because of the losses, plenty of times early in the season, you are still working through things, but finding ways to win games. I think at the end of the day you just have to realize what wins and loses them. I can think of one play on offense and one play on defense that I’m sure would have been a big difference in that game the other night. If you can just win the majority of them and do the things that you know result in playing winning football, your percentages go way up. It’s as simple as that.

Cam Jordan has been doing a lot off the field in terms of encouraging voting and voter registration, what do you think of him being such a vocal spokesperson for that whether with the community or your team?
“I’m not sure if there’s a guy that does more than Cam. I’m so impressed, ever since he’s been here, just about every Tuesday he’s gone and spoken at a school, an elementary school, middle school, high school. He’s out there wanting to influence people in a positive way. He obviously has a great personality, someone who can identify with anyone, carry on a conversation with anyone, very engaging, very outgoing and fun to be around. For a guy with a wife and three kids to donate his time, with plenty of responsibilities off the field, he’s very generous with his time in that regard. I can’t say how many times I see him on TV the last three months talking about registering to vote, how to do it and helping people with the process. It just speaks to his heart, not only wanting to give back to this community, but focusing on the things that affect our society the most.”

Things got clicking a little bit with Emmanuel Sanders in the last three quarters, do you think things are coming together there each week?
“I do and I think we’re just scratching the surface. It’s really just a matter of opportunity. There’s so many more opportunities there. I’m excited to watch that progress.”

You guys have been 0-2 or 1-2 before, what does that level of experience help in the mindset or is every season completely different in that regard?
“Whether we were 3-0 or 1-2, I have the same level of sense of urgency and preparation and expectation and all those things. It’s still so early and I know we are scratching the surface. I know we will be so much better in so many different areas. Really overall, it’s our execution. How can we continue to execute at the very highest level. Every season’s a new season and I’m excited about the guys we have, I think they can do a lot of great things and we just have to put it all together.”

And kind of related to that is it beneficial when you’re going through something like this with two straight losses to have all those veteran leaders on the team and guys who kind of been through this before and know how to bounce back from it?
“Absolutely. I’ve been a part of season where we’ve gone 0-2 and then still came back with 11 or 12 win seasons. At this point we don’t want to lose one more game. We want to win them all. And it has to start, back to what this week it has to be whoever our opponent is this week. We have to take in that same mentality trying to win each and every moment within the 60 minutes that is a game.”

I don’t know for lack of a better term disorganization the penalties and stuff like that? Is it is there like a common theme or is it is it a communication issue? How do you guys clean that up and get it right?
“That there’s been a ton of penalties on us the last three games this season alone just tells you that we have to focus in on. On what is our discipline? What are our fundamental values? And once we eliminate some of these penalties, there’s going to be so much ability to actually get after the passer should we actually create our favorite positions for our team? Right now it sort of seems like that’s killing us, the self-inflicting things that are extending drives.”

  • < PREV Belle Chasse cancels first two games, Lakeside scraps opener due to COVID-19 issues
  • NEXT > Flynn's Top-10 finish leads Cajuns at Graeme McDowell Invitational