METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints will lose their top two receivers on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Michael Thomas has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury that crept in this week. in addition to his pre-existing ankle injury. And Emmanuel Sanders will miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, coach Sean Payton told reporters on Friday.
Sanders practiced Wednesday and Thursday. But Payton said he started to experience symptoms of the virus on Thursday afternoon, so the Saints sent him to their doctors for further testing, which came back positive. He will now be placed on the reserve / COVID-19 list.
Payton, who spoke after Friday’s practice, said the team had also tested around 20 other people who may have been near Sanders, and all of them have tested negative. However, Payton said reserve cornerback Ken Crawley will be added to the reserve / COVID-19 roster as a precaution due to their close contact.
Payton said Sanders “had this at home” and “knows exactly how he got it,” although he didn’t give specific details beyond that.
Sanders is now the second Saints player to test positive this season after running back Dwayne Washington spent time on the reserve / COVID-19 roster at training camp and at the start of the season. The Saints also had a false positive test on the Saturday night before their Week 4 win in Detroit, which led to a need for backup testing at their team’s hotel late the night before their game.
“It’s part of the deal this year. We talked about the distractions and we focused on the things you can control,” Payton said. “It’s just 2020 for now.”
Payton declined to give details on Thomas’ status before the team released their updated injury report listing him as absent, except to say the hamstring injury is “something he’s working on” . Thomas was absent from the first part of Friday’s training which was open to media, after he did not train on Thursday and was restricted on Wednesday.
Sanders, an 11-year veteran who signed with the Saints in free agency, had really started to develop a connection with quarterback Drew Brees in recent weeks after a slow start to the season. Sanders caught career-high 12 assists for 122 yards in Week 5. The Saints took a break in Week 6.
This will now be the fifth game in a row that Thomas has missed after sustaining a sprained ankle in Week 1 and was benched for team disciplinary reasons in Week 5 after a training altercation that l ‘brought on his teammate CJ Gardner-Johnson to hit.
Thomas looked likely to come back from his ankle injury before this Week 5 incident. And he was definitely expected after the Week 6 break. But the hamstring injury was a new illness that arose for the woman. first time in Wednesday’s injury report.
New Orleans also placed alternate receiver Bennie Fowler on the injured reserve due to a shoulder injury on Friday, meaning he won’t be part of the solution.
The Saints will likely rely heavily on running back Alvin Kamara, tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith in their passing game. Other options could include wide receivers Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway, Austin Carr and Juwan Johnson; half Latavius Murray; quarterback / runner / receiver Taysom Hill and tight ends Josh Hill and Adam Trautman.