Saints WR Michael Thomas (ankle) participates in team drills Saturday

Michael Thomas hasn’t played in an NFL game since January of 2021, but reports from training camp suggest the wide receiver has completed a crucial step in the long process of getting back on the field.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Thomas participated in team drills during the Saints’ practice Saturday, noting that Thomas is a “full-go” for training camp. It is an encouraging development in the ongoing saga of Thomas’ long recovery from ankle surgery that has kept him on the sidelines for over a year.

The wideout originally injured his ankle in Week 1 of the 2020 season, and while he fought through the pain he struggled, recording just 40 catches and 438 receiving yards in only seven games played.

Thomas decided to have surgery on the ankle in June of the following offseason to address the issue, with the initial timetable for his return about four months. But Thomas ended up not playing at all in 2021, and was still not 100 percent entering this offseason’s workout programs.

The recovery process was has been slow going, as Thomas did not participate in organized team activities and started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but with Thomas being cleared for individual drills Wednesday and team drills on Saturday, it’s looking like he’s finally in a position to make his return.

It’s welcome news for the Saints, whose receiver corps struggled greatly without the three-time Pro Bowler in 2021. New Orleans finished last in the league in total receiving yards, and no player collected more than 700 receiving yards.

Thomas recorded at least 1,100 receiving yards in his first four seasons and led the Saints in receiving yards all four of those years, including the 2019 campaign in which he set the NFL single-season record with 149 receptions.

If his practices continue to trend in the right direction throughout the preseason and he can play at his previous level this year, that will be a huge help for the Saints offense.

New Orleans also addressed last season’s receiving issues by acquiring veteran Jarvis Landry and drafting first-round pick Chris Olave out of Ohio State, so all together signs are pointing to the offense starting the season in a much better position than this time last year.

So after months of questions about when Thomas would be able to make his long-awaited return, it appears that the receiver is playing at full health during training camp and could make his much-anticipated return to the field in Week 1.

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