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Sean Payton admits Michael Thomas' surgery should have happened sooner

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The New Orleans Saints will be missing star receiver Michael Thomas at the start of the season. It sounds like a situation that could have been avoided.

Why it wasn't, the team apparently isn't saying yet.

Saints head coach Sean Payton addressed the matter of Thomas undergoing ankle surgery in June with reporters ahead of his team's first practice of training camp Wednesday, per nola.com's Rod Walker. The veteran coach implied the team wanted Thomas to undergo the surgery much sooner than when he actually did:

From nola.com:

"It's disappointing," Payton said. "We'll work through it with the other players that are here. But the surgery took place and obviously we would have liked that to have happened earlier than later. And quite honestly, it should have."

Instead of opening training camp on the field, Thomas was placed on the PUP list on Tuesday.

Why did Michael Thomas undergo surgery so late?

Thomas was reported to need ankle surgery in January, following a season when he sustained an ankle injury in Week 1, returned in Week 9 and was ruled out for the rest of the regular season in Week 14. 

Usually one of the most reliable star receivers in football, Thomas ended up playing only seven games with 438 receiving yards and zero touchdowns, all career lows. He returned for the playoffs and caught five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the wild-card round, but was shut out on four targets in the Saints' loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Soon after that loss, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Thomas needed surgery on multiple ligaments in his ankle as well as a torn deltoid. That surgery would not come until June, and was reported to have a four-month recovery timetable.

All of that added up to Thomas likely being out until October. If he had undergone surgery in January or February, he would have likely been ready for the start of training camp. If that leaves you scratching your head, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis agrees with you.

From nola.com:

"We get to minicamp and obviously it wasn't quite right so we had to make the call and collectively made the call to have the surgery in June," Loomis said. "Obviously with hindsight, we would have preferred that surgery to be earlier. In February or March. But it wasn't. It is what it is. Hopefully he's had a good result so far and we can get him back sooner rather than later."

Thomas' absence is another variable for the Saints in a season full of them. In addition to the loss of Drew Brees, the team's starting quarterback for the past 15 years, the Saints also parted ways with starters Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, Janoris Jenkins, Malcom Brown, Sheldon Rankins and Josh Hill.

As things stand, new starter Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill will be passing to the likes of Tre'Quan Smith, Deonte Harris and Adam Trautman in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers.

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