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When will Michael Thomas return from IR?

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was placed on the injured reserve list. We break down the timeline for his return.

Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Michael Thomas tried to heal his ankle without surgery last off season and eventually had to have the surgery anyway. That pushed him onto the PUP list to start the season. The New Orleans Saints desperately need him to return sooner than later.

When is Michael Thomas eligible to come off IR?

Thomas is now eligible, in Week 7, to come off the PUP list. He was reportedly ahead of schedule, but aren’t they all?

When is Michael Thomas expected to return?

The good news is that this was about the time he was scheduled to be ready to return, so he is likely close to playing. We should know more soon, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise if he could play in Week 7 against the Seahawks.

Oct 18 update: The Saints will not be returning Thomas to the 53-man roster right away. Ian Rapoport is reporting Thomas is “still expected to be a couple weeks away.” That would suggest Week 9 at the earliest.

Who is playing in Michael Thomas’s place?

The Saints haven’t been able to find a receiver to even come close to giving them what Thomas can. Marquez Callaway, Kenny Stills and Ty Montgomery were their Top 3 receivers in routes run in Week 5. We also should see Tre-Quan Smith return soon, as he is also eligible to return this week.

The Saints have been extremely run heavy with Thomas and Smith out. They’ll likely still skew toward the run with Jameis Winston under center, but Thomas is the perfect chain mover and will immediately be a target hog on his return.