Sean Payton says Michael Thomas surgery “should have” happened sooner

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Michael Thomas
(Photo: Parker Waters)

The New Orleans Saints will start training camp without star receiver Michael Thomas and still looking to add a cornerback.

The Saints reported to camp Wednesday and will practice for the first time Thursday morning. The first practice that will be open to the public will be Friday morning.

Thomas was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform List on Tuesday and will not be available when the Saints begin the regular season against Green Bay on Sept. 12 in the Caesars Superdome.

“Obviously we would have liked (the surgery) to happen earlier than later and quite honestly it should have,” head coach Sean Payton said during a video news conference Wednesday evening.

Payton declined an opportunity to elaborate on why the surgery didn’t happen sooner, but executive vice president of football operations Mickey Loomis provided a timeline when he preceded Payton on the conference.

Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in the season opener against Tampa Bay last September. Loomis said the ankle was treated “conservatively” during the season and Thomas played in just seven regular-season games plus both playoff games.

Loomis said Thomas still had “a few issues after the season” and the ankle again was treated “conservatively.”

“I think we all had an expectation that that would heal and he’d be fine coming into camp this year,” Loomis said. “But we get to the mini-camp and obviously it wasn’t quite right and we collectively made the call that he’d have the surgery in June.

“Obviously, with hindsight we would have preferred that the surgery be earlier, in February or March, but it wasn’t. He’s had a good result so far and hopefully we’ll get him back sooner rather than later.”

The Saints announced the signing of former New England wide receiver Chris Hogan on Wednesday. Loomis said the team will continue to evaluate all opportunities to upgrade the roster, but added, “We like our group of receivers, probably more than some media guys do.”

Payton said the Saints have “other pressing positions ahead of (wide receiver)” for player acquisition. He wouldn’t list those positions, but clearly cornerback is one of them.

“There’s a still a player there we need to find,” Payton said. “We’re looking at everyone that we feel would be a candidate to fill that must (need),” Payton said.

On Tuesday, the Saints added former Falcons and Jets defensive back Brian Poole, who Payton said has “excelled” as a slot player.

“I think it’s important to narrow that focus down to an outside player,” Payton said of the lingering need.

New Orleans released starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins in a salary-cap move in the off-season and he signed with Tennessee. The Saints drafted cornerback Paulsen Adebo in the third round, but Marshon Lattimore, the other starting corner could face a suspension for an off-season arrest in Ohio.

Loomis said the Saints have not heard from the NFL about any discipline of Lattimore.

The Saints do know that starting defensive tackle David Onyemata will be suspended for the first six games of the regular season because he violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

New Orleans already had lost tackle Sheldon Rankins and end Trey Hendrickson in free agency in addition to trading defensive tackle Malcolm Brown to Jacksonville.

“You always think you can add and get better,” Loomis said, “but we feel good about the guys up front. David missing some games puts a little bit of a twist on that plan, but we’ve got a lot of talented guys in that front seven and on the front four in particular, and I think we’ll be just fine.”

Payton said he wasn’t sure “happy” would be the right word to describe how he feels about the vaccination rate among his players.

Loomis said the Saints have “a number of guys that are in the process of being vaccinated” and their vaccinations will put the Saints “well over 90 percent.”

“That’s a good number for us and it’s a good number for anybody really,” Loomis said. “Hopefully we’ll get to 100 percent at some point.”

Loomis said kicker Wil Lutz, defensive back P.J. Williams and offensive lineman Derrick Kelly will miss the start of practice because of “soft tissue” issues, but all three should be available “in a couple of days.”

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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