New Orleans Saints WR Mike Thomas returns to practice

New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas returned to practice Thursday, giving him an opportunity  to return to the lineup for the first time since Week 1.

It’s still unclear if Thomas (ankle/hamstring) will be able to play Sunday at Chicago. But he was participating in individual drills during the early portion of practice open to the media Thursday — which is something he did not do last week or on Wednesday of this week.

Thomas, the NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, was initially sidelined by a high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 1. He appeared close to returning in Week 5, but then he was benched for team disciplinary reasons after a practice altercation in which he punched teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Then Thomas returned to practice after New Orleans’ Week 6 bye — only to suffer a new hamstring injury. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that an MRI exposed a Grade 1 hamstring strain that was expected to sideline Thomas for one to two weeks.

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The Saints could certainly use him at Chicago.

Their No. 2 receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, is on the reserve-COVID list. And undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway, who led the team with 75 yards on eight catches last week, has been dealing with an ankle injury of his own.

Thomas and Callaway were formally listed as limited in Thursday’s practice.

Sanders could technically be eligible to return to activity for the first time on Sunday after testing positive last Thursday. But he stated that he will miss two games on Uninterrupted’s “17 Weeks” podcast on SiriusXM/Pandora.

Callaway was present for the start of Thursday’s practice but did not participate in the portion open to the media.

The Saints (4-2) have won three consecutive games despite their depleted WR corps, with Drew Brees and the passing offense finding a better rhythm by the week. They converted 12 of 14 third-down attempts and never punted in last week’s 27-24 triumph over the Carolina Panthers.

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