How Michael Thomas went from Saints star to getting unceremoniously released

Michael Thomas' release signifies the end of an era for the New Orleans Saints. An era where Thomas went from setting NFL records to constant injuries.

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages
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2020-21: High-ankle Hell

Disaster struck immediately in the 2020 season: Thomas caught just three passes for 17 yards before leaving the game with the ever-finnicky high-ankle sprain.

He was sidelined until Week 5 when he was slated to return for the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. However, this was when he infamously punched teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson in practice, and Thomas was subsequently deactivated and fined over $58,000. Eventually, he did make a return in Week 9 against the same Buccaneers he got injured playing earlier.

He remained in the lineup for six games and notched a pair of solid games: nine catches for 104 yards in the first meeting against the Falcons, and another nine catches for 105 yards two weeks later in the second meeting with the Dirty Birds. After the Week 14 game against the Eagles, though, he was placed on injured reserve due to lingering issues with his ankle.

He returned to the lineup for the playoffs and tallied 73 yards and his only touchdown of the season in the Wild Card Round against the Bears. The next week in the third showdown against the Buccaneers, Thomas didn't catch any of the four passes thrown his way and the season ended on a sour note for him. He dropped 67 spots down to No. 72 in the 2021 NFL Top 100.

"The surgery took place, and obviously, we would've liked that to have happened earlier than later, and quite honestly it should have."

Sean Payton, 2021 Training camp

This is where the rift began: the Saints' front office and the coaching staff wanted Thomas to get surgery done on his ankle immediately after the season, but Thomas chose to wait until later in the summer in hopes of avoiding the procedure. He faced a setback ahead of the season and was sidelined with hopes he would return. After Week 8, though, Thomas took to Twitter and announced that he would miss the remainder of the season to get healthy again.