'I love that guy': How Saints' Derek Carr, Michael Thomas' bond is blossoming

My Wish 2007 Drew Brees - Devan Muller meets Drew Brees (7:31)

In 2007, Devan Muller had his wish fulfilled at the New Orleans Saints mini camp with his favorite player, Drew Brees, after undergoing three heart surgeries. (7:31)

METAIRIE, La. – As New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr walked up to the podium, he gushed over the speaker before him.

“He makes me smile,” Carr said.

There’s a clear bond forming between Carr and wide receiver Michael Thomas, and a series of phone calls throughout the offseason has helped link the two -- even before they were teammates.

After being released by the Las Vegas Raiders in March, Carr signed with the Saints.

“The recruiting process, he was very important,” Carr said. “I wanted to know where his mind was and what decisions he was making because that mattered to me.

"I couldn’t wait until he got in the building ... because a big part of my decision was Mike Thomas.”

Carr also appeared to be a big part of Thomas’ decision to return to the Saints, which didn't seem certain despite the seven-year veteran still being under contract. Thomas has played in only 10 games in the past three seasons because of injuries, and his contract was restructured in a way in January that likely facilitated his release if he and the team couldn’t come to an agreement on a new deal.

Thomas said he never doubted that he would be back, but the timing might have indicated otherwise. Thomas and the Saints would rework his deal again to ensure that he stayed in New Orleans just days after Carr’s deal became official.

“I always knew I was going to be here,” Thomas said. “I knew I would be the receiver. I knew our priorities for the offseason was to get a quarterback and put some pieces around us. So I was always involved.”

From Carr’s perspective, Thomas was always charging several steps ahead of him. Thomas would call Carr and ask repeatedly if he’d made his decision about where he wanted to go, lamenting that time was being wasted where they could already be working.

Carr had to laugh as he recalled telling him “not yet Mike” a few times as he and the Saints worked out the details to bring him to New Orleans.

Most of the calls were about getting to know each other and feeling out what it would be like to work together, and Carr came away impressed by Thomas’ dedication to getting back to his old self -- highlighted by his being named the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year.

“That guy, just his mentality alone," Carr said of Thomas. "The injuries, it’s football. The injuries, 100 percent, they’re going to happen. I think we can all agree, he’s someone that dominates recovery. He’s not someone who’s going to cut corners or anything like that. So you trust that he’ll be as ready as he can be.

"The football player, the mentality, that’s the thing I fell in love with, with him. I sat there on the phone, and I remember two, three, four days after we were on the phone, I just kept telling my wife, ‘I love that guy. I love his mentality.’ How do you not want to play football with that guy?”

Thomas immediately felt like he’d found a kindred spirit in how Carr viewed the game.

“He wants to win just like I want to win," Thomas said. "He’s just very disciplined. He’s on top of his stuff. He came here for a reason. That’s the same type of confidence I hear in his voice -- he came here for a reason, he came here to win. You can feel the sense of urgency. He loves ball. It’s not hard working with him. ... He tells me what to do, I tell him where I’m going to be, and we’re on the same page. We can execute at a high level.”

The phone calls have been vital for the two, as Thomas has been rehabbing a toe injury in California over the past couple of months while Carr has been in the process of moving his family to his new city.

According to Carr, Monday marked the first time he had thrown to Thomas -- since Thomas had not been a full participant at practice yet as he continues to recover. But when Thomas got his first in-person interaction with his new quarterback, he took note of how he handled himself around the building and found himself comparing Carr’s discipline to future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.

“Oh, he’s been amazing,” Thomas said of the 32-year-old Carr. "Amazing. I can’t wait to play with him and just be out there and execute and create something special with him, a connection, you know? Just like, the way he demands the huddle, the sense of urgency, just the way he handles himself, he’s a pro.

"He’s great for these young guys to see, his demeanor. Just everything, just watching him, from when he gets in the building. Kind of how Drew was, you could watch Drew ... you could learn from him, the locker room you could learn from him."

Getting completely on the same page will take time, though, as Carr is still learning the Saints’ system and Thomas is still nursing his toe injury.

But those spring conversations have started a relationship that they hope will only get stronger during the summer and beyond.

“You never want to feel like you have it all figured out, but I feel confident in where I’m at and we’re talking the same language," Carr said. "... We’re saying the same words. I’m asking the right questions, and he’s giving feedback. ... It’s been very, very helpful that he’s been here, and I’m very thankful that he’s been here.”

The bond should grow tighter during training camp, as Thomas said Tuesday that he expects to be "full speed" when the Saints open camp in late July.