It's not unprecedented for a superstar wide receiver in the National Football League to have a little bit of trouble inside of their locker room. We have heard about the "Diva-esque" rantings and behavior of elite receivers.
Not to name names, but a few have put on those yellow blazers and earned busts in Canton, Ohio. But in the case of Michael Thomas, this comes as a surprise. Right?
The New Orleans Saints All-Pro wide receiver has always been a model citizen since his arrival. Thomas was named the AP 2019 Offensive Player of the Year for his record-breaking season (149 receptions) and helped lead the Saints to a 13-3 record. Earlier in the year, he held out of Saints training camp and then inked a massive 5-year, $100M contract extension from the Saints.
Things were going well for Thomas, and the notoriety, press, and accolades were flooding. Even EA Sports acknowledged his athletic prowess and honored Thomas into the Madden 99 Club. However, you started to notice his temperament became different.
At the beginning of the offseason, he went from "scorching" defensive backs to "torching" other NFL receivers on social media. His Twitter beefs, bruising commentary, and sarcasm was becoming commonplace from a young player who was, for the most part, a quiet and reserved person. His behavior was not going unnoticed by many.
The quiet man started to push his weight around behind the electronic keyboards on and off the playing field. He was reeling. His summer Twitter feud with Dolphins wide receiver DaVante Parker raised eyebrows. It was ignited from Adams' comments to an Instagram poll post, “Make a catch while guarded by Stephon Gilmore” vs. “Break up a pass while guarding Michael Thomas?” Thomas did not care for Adams' selection of "Make a catch while guarded by Stephon Gilmore." “Go run some numbers up,” and then “you can talk" was Thomas' response.
Observers wondered why Thomas felt the necessity to comment at all. Especially off of his outstanding year from setting the NFL single-season receptions record and becoming the OPOY.
Thomas started to receive negative opinions from even the most casual NFL fan. Some were calling him a crybaby, whiner, and a prima donna. That is something he has never been known for the previous years in the NFL.
To call yourself, "Can't Guard Mike," does take a measure of confidence most other wide receivers do not possess. To go along with your confidence, an athlete must understand that he is one of the National Football League's elite players. Often, the player may allow their emotions to get the better of themselves, become arrogant and divisive. This weekend, Sean Payton and the Saints were forced to respond.
Thomas and defensive back Chauncey Gardener-Johnson had an altercation at Saints team practice. Two talented and highly emotional players, one punch, and not New Orleans star receiver will extend his absence from the team's offensives lineup. What went from verbal to physical had to require an answer from the organization.
Will GM Mickey Loomis and Coach Payton decide to extend Thomas' time off as a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team? If so, how will the team respond? They have a bye week after Monday night's Chargers game.
New Orleans has handled their fair share of controversy since the offseason. Recall the ill-timed insensitive comments from Drew Brees on the flag and kneeling issue. The public denouncement of players supporting the Black Lives Matters movement, the George Floyd incident, police shootings, systemic racism discussions, the Breonna Taylor killing, early-season losses, performance disappointment, a rash of injuries, and now this in-house bickering. I believe the Saints will be fine. No great team plays through a season without situations building their character.
This situation for Michael Thomas may be the one thing to help steer him back on course. When the team released Thomas was out of the Los Angeles contest, was not injury-related, they were proactive. Saints made the best move for the organization, stayed ahead of the narratives, and ensured they distributed the information before media speculation took root.
Gardner-Johnson must not be a forgotten man. He can be very excitable at times. Whatever occurred between the young defensive back and Thomas, Ceedy Duce can positively grow from as well.
Michael Thomas can either do one or two things, learn and control his emotions or throw away an excellent opportunity to keep re-writing the NFL record books. How will he respond?
We shall see.