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USATSI

Star wide receiver Michael Thomas hasn't seen the field for the New Orleans Saints since Week 1, missing three straight games with an ankle injury and then sitting out Week 5 because of a team suspension. Days ahead of the Saints' Week 7 matchup with the rival Carolina Panthers, however, coach Sean Payton told reporters the team is finished disciplining the wideout for his reported involvement in a fight at practice, though Payton did not confirm whether Thomas' ankle will still hinder his availability.

"We'll see," he said when asked about Thomas' readiness for Week 7. "I think he's feeling better. We really don't get into injuries or predictions, so you guys will be the first to know."

Payton also did not elaborate on the details of Thomas' punishment, which kept him off the field during New Orleans' win over the Los Angeles Chargers, but confirmed the receiver will not be suspended any further after reportedly punching teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson following a disagreement leading up to that game. Considering Thomas was reportedly set to return against the Chargers, however, all indications are that his ankle is good to go for Sunday, when the Saints host Carolina at 1 p.m. ET.

The three-time Pro Bowl receiver caught just three passes for 17 yards in New Orleans' season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before exiting with his injury. Thrice the recipient of more than 100 passes as Drew Brees' No. 1 target, however, his presence could do wonders for a Saints offense that's largely relied on short- and mid-range passes this season. The 27-year-old Thomas, who last summer signed a five-year, $100 million extension with the team, hauled in a career-high 1,725 receiving yards during the 2019 season.