Saints star WR Michael Thomas expected to miss start of NFL season with ankle injury, per report

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As the New Orleans Saints break in a new starting quarterback to replace the retired Drew Brees, the team's passing attack could be in for another early-season hiccup.

Wide receiver Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the regular season after undergoing surgery in June to repair the ligaments in his ankle, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

Thomas is expected to miss the Week 1 opener against the Green Bay Packers and could be out for multiple weeks, according to Rapoport.

Thomas suffered the ankle injury in Week 1 last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed the team's next six games before returning. He played in just seven contests in 2020, recording a career-low 62.6 yards per game.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection served as the focal point of the Saints' passing attack for the four previous seasons since he was selected by the team in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft. He set an NFL record with 149 receptions in 2019 while also leading the league with a career-best 1,725 receiving yards. 

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) sits on the bench in the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in New Orleans.

Saints coach Sean Payton was optimistic in June about Thomas' ankle.

“He’s here and participating. He looks good,” Payton said in a news conference. “We still monitor it, pay attention to it, scan it, and all those things. He’s getting treatment and doing the things necessary. So, so far, so good.”

The Saints return little production at receiver outside of Thomas after losing No. 2 target Emmanuel Sanders to the Buffalo Bills in free agency. Tre'Quan Smith is the only other receiver who had more than 400 receiving yards last season. Running back Alvin Kamara led the team in both receptions (83) and receiving yards (756) last season.

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

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