Saints place Emmanuel Sanders on reserve/COVID-19 list, rule out Michael Thomas

The New Orleans Saints will play without their top two receivers Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Star receiver Michael Thomas is battling hamstring and ankle injuries, did not practice to close out the week and was ruled out ahead of Sunday's game.

The Saints also put wideout Emmanuel Sanders on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, meaning he is out for Sunday, as well. Sanders practiced Thursday and now must quarantine.

Saints coach Sean Payton told reporters that Sanders tested positive for COVID-19 and "he knows exactly how he got it." Cornerback Ken Crawley will also be placed on the COVID-19 list as a close contact to Sanders.

Sanders came on strong in the Saints' last outing showing improved rapport with Drew Brees, catching 12 passes for 122 yards. That chemistry will be put on hold for at least a week.

Thomas has played in just one game this season while dealing with an ankle injury. He was scratched from the Saints' Week 5 game by the team for disciplinary reasons after a fight at practice. Now, the hamstring issue popped up.

Without the No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts, Brees' top pass-catchers will be Alvin Kamara out of the backfield, tight end Jared Cook, and receivers Tre'Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, and Marquez Callaway. Veteran Bennie Fowler was also not seen at Friday's practice, per reporters on the scene.

Payton could also utilize QB/WR/RB/TE/Slash Taysom Hill as a pass-catcher more in Week 7.

The coach said he feels "good" about his depth at wide receiver, adding, "Lot of different guys working at different positions, and we had good work today."

Regardless of the Saints' issues at WR, Sunday always projected as a big day for Kamara against a Panthers defense that has struggled against running backs this season. With both Thomas and Sanders missing, perhaps Kamara could be split out wide more in two-RB sets with Latavius Murray.

It seems whenever Payton is put in what most would consider a bind, his creative juices get flowing and he finds another way to coax production. His latest test comes in a division matchup Sunday.

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