Veteran receiver Michael Thomas was a notable new attendee at the New Orleans Saints’ offseason workouts Tuesday.
Thomas ran routes on air and caught passes from quarterbacks Derek Carr and Jameis Winston, but he did not participate in competitive team drills.
Thomas missed the first two weeks of OTAs while working his way back from an offseason procedure on his surgically repaired foot. It was the first time he has been with the team at practice since Week 3 of last season. He suffered a dislocated toe in the Saints’ Week 3 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 25.
"It felt great to be back with the team and have the camaraderie with my teammates," Thomas said. "It felt like the first day of school."
Thomas said the plan is for him to be ready to return to practice for the start of training camp in late July.
"He puts a smile on my face," Carr said. "It was great to have him back on the field."
Here are more takeaways from Tuesday’s organized team activity (OTA) workout:
Red-zone, goal-line drills
The workout was one of the most competitive of the offseason, featuring an inordinate number of competitive team drills in red-zone and goal-line situations.
Derek Carr completed multiple touchdown passes to Chris Olave and Juwan Johnson, while Jameis Winston connected with recently signed tight end Jesse James and Tre’Quan Smih for scores. Overall, it was a good day for the offense.
"Good practice today," Saints coach Dennis Allen said. "Love the effort. Guys are out here working hard and getting better. Good back and forth in today’s practice. So stacking days."
Alontae Taylor, Isaac Yiadom and Lonnie Johnson had nice pass breakups for the defense.
Carr in command
Carr said he feels more comfortable every day in the Saints offense and it showed in his play. His throws were sharp and decisive throughout the workout. For a player in just his first few weeks of installation in the offense, he looked in total command.
"I feel confident with where I'm at (in the offense)," Carr said. "We still have a long ways to go, but I feel like we’re making good progress (on offense) and it's exciting."
Carr spoke for the first time about Jon Gruden’s visit to Saints camp last week and said it was great to see and spend time with the coach who mentored him for three-plus seasons with the Raiders.
"If anybody knows me, it’s him," Carr said. "I played my best football with him so it makes sense. I can’t express how much I love coach Gruden and his family. You can get mad about some things that were said or done, but you still don’t stop loving him. I know who he is."
Undrafted kicker opens eyes and other notes
Undrafted free agent kicker Blake Grupe showed impressive leg strength on a 59-yard field goal toward the end of practice, drawing a raucous round of cheers from teammates and coaches. He made 6 of 6 on the day. "He's kicking the ball well," Allen said about Grupe, who kicked at Notre Dame. "I feel like we've got two really good kickers. I think there is going to be some great competition throughout training camp, and I'm excited to watch it play out."... Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders was excused from practice so he could attend the ceremonial visit to the White House by his former team, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, in Washington. … Other players not seen during the voluntary workout: Ugo Amadi, Blake Gillikin, Taysom Hill, Rashid Shaheed, Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, Alvin Kamara, Trevor Penning, Ryan Ramczyk, James Hurst and Andrus Peat. … Miller Forristall, Nick Saldiveri, Kendre Miller and Eno Benjamin were present but did not practice because of unspecified reasons.