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Sean Payton on Michael Thomas: He’s going to be a big part of what we do

Sean Payton and Michael Thomas reportedly had a meeting to smooth over issues that arose during the offseason, but Mike Florio says regardless of any positives, it doesn't necessarily rule out an eventual trade.

Michael Thomas showed up to root on his teammates Saturday night and even caught some passes from Jameis Winston on the Saints sideline. He acted like a player who wants to remain in New Orleans, and Sean Payton sounds like a coach who wants his star receiver to remain in New Orleans.

Thomas continues his recovery from ankle surgery, but the question about his return hasn’t been just about his return from injury. Reports about his rocky relationship with Payton have led to uncertainty about his future with the Saints.

“It’s good to have him back,” Payton said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN. “A lot of his rehab has been in Philadelphia with his ankle specialist. He had a recheck last week. He’s ahead of schedule. He’s going to be a big part of what we do, and hopefully the sooner, the better with his recovery.”

Payton and Thomas met recently in an attempt to smooth over their differences. The friction started last year when Thomas played only seven games because of injuries and disciplinary issues and escalated this offseason when Thomas waited until June to have surgery on his ankle.

Thomas, whose prognosis was a four-month recovery, is expected to miss the start of the regular season.

Thomas signed a five-year, $96 million contract extension with the team in 2019, and he caught 149 passes for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns that season. He made only 40 receptions for 438 yards in 2020.