Saints WR Michael Thomas expected to play vs. Falcons for first time in 21 months

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New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is expected to play on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Thomas had been listed as questionable earlier in the week due to a hamstring injury he's been dealing with for the past several weeks.

He got that hamstring injury while rehabbing his ankle, which is why he's missed so much time. He sustained a high ankle sprain in Week 1 of the 2020 season, and while he was able to play on it after missing six games, he went on injured reserve in the middle of December.

Drama surrounding ankle injury

There was a surprising amount of drama centered on Thomas' ankle following the injury. After the 2020 season, the Saints reportedly wanted Thomas to have surgery, while Thomas wanted to take a conservative, non-surgical approach. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints decided in March 2021 to let Thomas rehab without surgery, but then Thomas stopped returning their calls for three months, meaning he was rehabbing without team guidance.

Thomas ended up having surgery on his ankle in June 2021 after his ankle wasn't quite right at minicamp, and the four-month recovery timetable meant he'd miss the start of the 2021 season. Then-head coach Sean Payton acknowledged in August that Thomas' surgery happened later than they would have liked, which prompted Thomas to tweet a cryptic statement about someone or something trying to damage his reputation.

Just a few days after, Payton and Thomas met to bury the hatchet. Unfortunately, Thomas wouldn't take the field in 2021 due to continuing ankle issues.

That brings us up to date. Thomas is expected to start for the first time in nearly two years on Sunday, and said in late July that it's a "blessing" to be back with the team.

In 2019, his last healthy season, Thomas caught an NFL-record 149 passes for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns, and was also named the Offensive Player of the Year.

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 14: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints looks on from the sidelines during the second half of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will reportedly start on Sunday for the first time since December 2020. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)