Payton: Thomas should've undergone surgery sooner
Thomas underwent surgery in June to repair ligaments in his ankle and is expected to miss at least the first month of the 2021 campaign.
The surgery is on the same ankle that bothered Thomas from the outset of the 2020 season.
"It's disappointing and we'll work through it with the other players that are here, but the surgery took place, and, obviously, we would have liked that to have happened earlier than later, and, quite honestly, it should have," Payton said at Wednesday's press conference.
General manager Mickey Loomis said Thomas and the Saints initially opted for a conservative approach to treating the injury and hoped it would heal, but it didn't.
"Obviously, in hindsight, we would've preferred the surgery to be earlier but it wasn't, so it is what it is," Loomis said, according to Katherine Terrell of The Athletic.
The 28-year-old pass-catcher is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he was limited to 40 receptions for 438 yards and zero touchdowns. Thomas set a league record in 2019 with 149 catches.
New Orleans will begin a season without Drew Brees under center for the first time in 15 years. Whoever wins the quarterback battle between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill won't have their No. 1 target to ease the transition.