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Saints’ Sean Payton: Michael Thomas truly loves playing

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Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has had a very memorable rookie season, and Sean Payton elaborated some on what makes him stand out.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Without question, the New Orleans Saints struck gold when they landed Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft. While many didn’t necessarily understand the reasoning behind taking another offensive weapon over plugging holes on defense, it has all come full circle. Thomas has played more like a veteran in his rookie season, and has been praised for his work ethic and determination since the beginning.

During his Wednesday afternoon conference call with the media, head coach Sean Payton echoed a lot of what we’ve been seeing this year.

On evaluating his rookie season:

“I think one of his great strengths is his ability to work and focus. He truly loves playing, so gamedays are that much more important. The group in general and when you start looking at all those guys between Snead (Willie Snead IV), (Brandin) Cooks, (Brandon) Coleman and Tommylee (Lewis), these guys are all grinding and watching extra tape and preparing. He comes in no different. He’s very competitive. I think he’s handled that transition very well.”

On surprises during his season progress:

“I think when you draft a player, you’re certain of a few things and then there’s some uncertainty to a number of things and I think fortunately his competitive nature and his ability to focus on just playing receiver and his ability to focus on each rep…It’s hard for him to have a walkthrough. He’s one of those guys who’s jogging at least half-speed if not more to everything he’s doing and I would say his run after the catch…when we drafted this player we thought he had that, but I think he’s tough when he catches the ball in space for any defender.”

Thomas sits just 19 yards shy of breaking the 1,000-yard mark (982), and has turned in 82 receptions and 8 touchdowns for the Saints offense. Many may forget, but Thomas actually missed one game this season (Week 14 - Buccaneers). Turning just 23 in March, the Saints look to have another keeper on their roster for years to come.