RB Thomas could be back for Cincy Sunday

The Saints run game has been helped out by rookie Chris Ivory, but it sounds like Pierre Thomas could be on his way back, and possibly as early as Sunday when the team takes on the Bengals in Cincinnati.

Injured running back Pierre Thomas could make his long-anticipated return to active duty Sunday in an important road game against the Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday night.

Payton said Thomas has “turned the corner’’ in his rehabilitation/recovery from a severely sprained left ankle that has sidelined him the past eight games and triggered widespread speculation as to the nature of the injury. ESPN has reported the past two weeks that Thomas suffered a torn tendon, reports Payton has labeled inaccurate. In addition, the lengthy rehabilitation and uncertainty surrounding Thomas’ prognosis and pending return have caused great angst and frustration for the fourth-year pro who broke into the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007.

“I’m optimistic that (Thomas) can get back on the field for this game,’’ said Payton, whose team stands 8-3 after a riveting 30-27 victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and trails the Atlanta Falcons (9-2) in the NFC South. “We began to see some real progress last week, yet we knew he wouldn’t be ready to play in that short turnaround on Thanksgiving. But when he and I spoke leading up to the Thanksgiving game, our goal was to make the Cincinnati game at least something we could target.’’

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