METAIRIE, La. (WLOX) - The New Orleans Saints are ready to finish what they started last year and take the next step to reaching their second-ever Super Bowl.
With temperatures in the upper eighties and hundreds of fans in attendance, the Saints took the field for day one of practice at training camp. The only one who didn’t take reps Friday was star wide receiver Michael Thomas who is holding out in an attempt to receive a lucrative contract extension.
The fourth year wideout has been one of the best at his position in his first three years in the league, holding the NFL record for most receptions with 321 in that span of time. Thomas’s teammates understand he’s just doing what’s best for him.
“At the end of the day, you want to be valued by your team, not only your team but you have a value within yourself and you know what you can get and what you want," Saints defensive end Cam Jordan told WLOX. "That’s for two sides to come together to an agreement. That’s about all I got for you right now, big fella. In terms of that situation, that’s strictly between the player and the organization and when he takes the field we’ll be happy to have my man going full go.”
Thomas is on the last year of his rookie deal, which would pay him just over $1.1 million this season. He wants a new deal that will pay him 20 million annually, making him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. As of right now, the Saints front office are willing to pay between $18-$19 million. In recent years, holdouts have become common in the NFL, but not for the Saints as Thomas is the first veteran player in the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era that has held out because of contract negotiations.
“It hasn’t happened recently. After the last CBA, generally it was a rookie back in the day and it might take three or four days but after the slotted assignments, it quickly went away," Saints head coach Sean Payton told WLOX. "At some point, they’ll get that number worked out and until then we work on who’s here.”
Of those present was Alvin Kamara, who’s ready to take the responsibility as the feature back for New Orleans in his third year in the league.
“Year 3, I’m just trying to have fun," Saints running back Alvin Kamara said. "First year was learning, trying to assimilate. Second year was still about learning. Now I know everything. Nothing comes without the work. If we want to reach the goals we want to reach we have to stay focused on coming out here and getting better.”
Starting quarterback Drew Brees enters his 19th season in the NFL and shows no signs of slowing down. Brees is coming off one his best statistical years in the league as he continues to fight off Father Time.
“Everything I do from a training perspective is to combat that, right? So you just try to stay ahead of that curve, right, stay ahead of that curve," Brees told WLOX. "So far it feels...I feel like I’m beating it.”
In his press conference, Brees says it isn’t all bad that Thomas is absent right now as it gives the 11 other receivers on the roster a chance to battle for that number two or three receiver slot. Overall, the Saints hope to reach a deal with Thomas before the second week of camp.