METAIRIE, La. -- After he signed his record-breaking contract extension on Wednesday, New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas said he told general manager Mickey Loomis, "I'll be back to do a third deal."
"So now it's on to the next goal. Now you're the highest-paid, and now you gotta go earn it," said Thomas, whose five-year extension is worth between $96.25 and $100 million and gives him the highest average salary of any receiver in the NFL.
"So that's the biggest thing I'm trying to do. I'm trying to earn every penny of it."
Thomas, 26, was back on the practice field Thursday after he ended a six-day holdout. And he didn't appear to miss a beat, catching familiar passes from quarterback Drew Brees down the middle of the field.
Thomas said he was training in San Diego at the same level he would have been training in New Orleans -- and he watched the practice highlights on social media. But he said it got harder for him to be away after the first few days.
"Missing those reps, not competing against my teammates ... that's part of developing into a great player," Thomas said. "And you can't do that sitting at home."
Thomas said he decided to hold out because he hired his agent for a reason and followed his "coaching" through the negotiating process. But Thomas said he didn't mind being the first receiver to get a deal done while fellow top receivers like Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, A.J. Green and Tyreek Hill are also seeking extensions -- even though he knows someone else might raise the salary bar even higher.
Saints coach Sean Payton said he "knew Mike was going to come in in good shape" and that it was good to have him back.
"It's awesome, great to have him back. Knew it was only a matter of time, right?" Brees said. "So I think the timing's good, get him back in the fold. I think we're still at the beginning of our install for the most part. And he came in here today as if he's been here the whole time. So all good.
"You know that this is the part of the business at times, and you hope it doesn't drag on too long. You want to have all the guys here, all the members of the team. You want the whole band, right?"
Brees, who has always raved about Thomas' intensity level and work ethic, said he believes that Thomas' presence does elevate others around him on the practice field.
"There's definitely a presence, an attitude, a swagger to what he brings on the field," Brees said. "You know when he's out there, there's no half-speed rep. Everything is a thousand miles an hour, Mach 3 with your hair on fire with Mike. And I think everybody else elevates their game to that. I think he makes the guys he's going up against better."
Thomas was named a first-team All-Pro last year after setting franchise records with 125 catches and 1,405 receiving yards. And his 321 catches are by far the most ever by a player in his first three NFL seasons.
But he will have to adjust to this level of recognition and reward, since he has always been so fueled by doubters after being a late bloomer in high school, struggling to get on the field early at Ohio State and being drafted in the second round.
Thomas insisted that he'll still have that same chip on his shoulder, while dropping a reference to his uncle, Keyshawn Johnson.
"I come from a competitive family. My uncle was the first receiver drafted in 1996, overall No. 1 ... and I went second round, 47th. But I had to control what I could control. And now we both have a little something to talk about, we'll see which one holds more weight," Thomas said. "But just being a competitor and wanting to be the best, I feel like if you set high goals and you attack 'em, there's rewards at the end of it."