Michael Thomas' path back to the field isn't going to be paved with fresh, smooth asphalt.
The Saints receiver was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp, according to the league's transaction wire. Joining him on the PUP list is defensive end Marcus Davenport, whose 2021 season was limited by a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.
Davenport also has undergone multiple surgeries on his left pinky finger, which included a partial amputation to address a recurring infection related to an injury sustained while playing at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
Thomas has not played in an NFL game since Jan. 17, 2021, and attempted to spend much of the following offseason rehabbing an ankle injury that ultimately required surgery in June of 2021, forcing him to start camp on the PUP list. It ended up keeping him from playing at all last season and has now forced another delayed start to a season.
New Saints head coach Dennis Allen told reporters in late May that Thomas was "not ready yet," and it remains true as of July 21. New Orleans suffered without Thomas last season, relying on the likes of Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris to produce as traditional receivers. It was telling that running back Alvin Kamara finished third in receiving yards for the Saints in what was a down year for him in that department.
The Saints have since reacted accordingly, spending a first-round pick on Ohio State's Chris Olave and signing veteran standout Jarvis Landry to bolster what was a thin group a year ago. A potential loss of Thomas wouldn't be quite as significant, though as his time working back toward playing drags on, the questions regarding his future will only intensify.
Davenport, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakout year in a shortened season, recording nine sacks in 11 games played (nine starts) in 2021. Unfortunately, he's yet to play a full season, and he would help himself out plenty if he were able to replicate his production from last season over a full slate in 2022.
There's certainly still a chance for Davenport to do so. But after going through quite a difficult offseason medically, he's going to need some extra time before he's ready to embark on his pivotal fifth year.