After being suspended for Monday night’s victory over the Los Angeles Chargers due to conduct detrimental to the team, New Orleans Saints star wide receiver Michael Thomas may not be completely out of head coach Sean Payton’s doghouse just yet. Jeff Duncan, who covers the Saints for The Athletic, had the following to say in his recent column about Thomas’ erratic behavior over the past several months.
Teammates, coaches and friends compare Thomas’ fiery competitiveness to Michael Jordan, who infamously belittled teammates and opponents on his way to six NBA titles.
However, there’s a difference between competitiveness and boorishness. And too often Thomas’ behavior has crossed the line, earning him a reputation among Saints football operations and support staff that can best be described as “difficult.”
Sources said Thomas barked at team trainers for failing to tape his ankle properly and accused one administrative staffer of illegally going through his mail. Thomas’ unpredictable, aloof personality has alienated members of the team’s public relations staff and led to social media snipes at opposing players and local reporters, frustrating the club’s brain trust.
Following the Saints’ victory on Monday night, Payton was asked if Thomas’ suspension would carry over into another game. He only responded by saying, “I will keep you posted. That is something that we will discuss and we will let you know when the time is right.” Hmmm.
Thomas is one of the best receivers in football, but we’ve seen character concerns overtake other stars in recent years, and he needs to be careful that he doesn’t follow that same path. Having said that, Thomas is the type of talented competitor and difference-maker that the Saints roster desperately needs, so there is also an onus of responsibility on the New Orleans’ coaching staff to figure out how to best work with his personality.
Last season Thomas set the NFL record for catches in a single season with 149 for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. However, due to an ankle injury suffered at the end of the Saints’ victory over the Bucs in Week 1, Thomas hasn’t appeared in the team’s last four games. He managed just three catches for 17 yards in his three-and-a-half quarters of action this season. When Thomas returns, he will have a lot of ground to make up in his quest for a fifth straight 1,000-yard campaign to begin his career. Only Mike Evans, Randy Moss and A.J. Green have ever accomplished that feat.
The Bucs and Saints meet again in Week 9 (Nov. 8) on Sunday Night Football.