By John DeShazier
New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas isn’t making the claim yet that he’s 100 percent.
Almost three full seasons off the field – 10 regular-season games played out of the last 50 – due to ankle and toe injuries, surgeries and rehabilitation have caked on some rust that isn’t easily chipped off.
But Thomas is available for this New Orleans Saints training camp, fully practicing without limits, and if he’s not 100 percent he most definitely can see it from here.
“It’s a blessing for sure just to be out there, not on the side watching, just being able to put stuff on film and then go back and critique it, go back and hone your craft,” he said Tuesday following the Saints’ second consecutive practice in full pads. “That’s all the receiver position is, just a craft and creating separation.
“It’s pretty much like art, and you just have to know how to use your body and get your steps down and certain things like that, the little nuances that probably won’t show up on paper or some people on the side won’t even know what we did (because) we made it look kind of easy. Just the small things, building on those and building on the details and just taking hard coaching, trusting the coaching and applying it to my game. That’s what I really missed, being able to come out there and perfect my craft.”
There are signs of the craftsmanship that helped Thomas let a league record with 149 catches in 2019, for a franchise-record 1,725 receiving yards and a career-high tying nine touchdowns en route to being named NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
A diving catch in traffic across the middle in team drills. A back-shoulder grab snatch in one-on-ones. An all-hands pluck with a defender draped around him.
“I feel like I’m trending in the right direction,” Thomas said. “Taking every day one day at a time, trying to execute at a high level, come out here and make plays and move the chains for the offense, take great coaching, correct my mistakes in the meeting room and just come out here and add value.
“I’m always chasing perfection and trying to win every rep. I’m a competitor. I don’t prepare to lose, I prepare to execute and make the play. It’s a process, a learning process, but the good thing about the Saints is we have a lot of great competition on the other side of the ball. So, I feel like it won’t take long, but you’ve got to get in the groove, you’ve got to get some things down. But with the coaching and the players I’m surrounded by, I’m not really worried. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
Thomas’ one-day-at-a-time now encompasses a maintenance schedule, something that once would have been unfathomable for the workaholic receiver. The wisdom has been gained along the way by Thomas.