Saints coach Sean Payton said he expects to have Courtney Roby back this season, but he will be out for Sunday’s matchup against the Ravens. Roby will be missed on special teams as he is a solid kick returner, and an excellent cover man. Sean Payton said that Pierre Thomas, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Julius Jones, and Patrick Robinson would be considered as the primary kickoff returner until Roby returns to the lineup. If I had to guess, I’d suspect Thomas will be the KR on Sunday. Mike Triplett of the Times Picayune agrees.
Tailback Pierre Thomas and receiver Robert Meachem, who both have past experience as kickoff returners, will likely be the first in line. Receiver Devery Henderson, tailback Julius Jones and cornerback Patrick Robinson are other possibilities.
Thomas was the Saints’ primary kickoff returner in 2007 and 2008 and has a career average of 24.7 yards per kickoff return. Thomas hasn’t returned a kickoff this year, and he only returned two last year. But one of them was an unforgettable 40-yard return in overtime of the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota that helped set up the Saints’ game-winning field goal.
Thomas just returned last week from a lingering ankle injury that sidelined him for more than two months. But he said he doesn’t expect that to be a problem.
“I feel that my ankle would allow me to do just about anything out there,” Thomas said. “I do a lot out there in practice. And if they need me, I told them I’m always there. I’m always ready to step up for whatever cause there is. So I’m ready to step up if my name is called.”
Thomas said he has been so eager to get on the field in recent weeks that he has even been volunteering to return kickoffs for the scout team.
“It allows me to get my conditioning in,” Thomas said. “So I go out there and try to do as much as I can right now so I can get my conditioning up and catch back up with these guys.”
Thomas’ most memorable kick return was last year in overtime of the NFC Championship game. Second on the list was a memorable return during the 2008 seasonin a close home win against the Atlanta Falcons. He returned a kick inside the 15 yard line of the Falcons in the 4th quarter. The return helped set-up the game winning touchdown.