NEW ORLEANS — One of Pierre Thomas' teammates referred to him as "an animal" after the Saints' playoff opening triumph over Detroit.
Thomas is just happy to be healthy and able to help New Orleans in another playoff run.
The fifth-year running back was a key player in the Saints' championship two seasons ago, turning screen passes into long touchdowns in both the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. But in 2010 he had a left ankle injury for much of the regular season and was on injured reserve by the time the Saints lost in the playoffs.
Thomas made his postseason return Saturday against the Lions, slipping numerous tackles and bouncing off some heavy hits on his way to 121 combined yards and a touchdown.
"It was very sweet. I'm blessed to continue my career after my injury," Thomas said. "I just keep fighting. I've been pushing and my teammates have my back. I don't even think about the injury. I just go out and keep playing."
Thomas has been effective, but overshadowed both by the Saints' record-breaking passing game and by being part of a deep running back corps. The fifth-year back was second on the team in rushing with 562 yards and five TDs on 110 carries, a respectable 5.1 yards per carry. He also caught 50 passes for 425 yards and a score.
GIANTS: In his first game back with the team on Dec. 4, LB Chase Blackburn intercepted Aaron Rodgers, one of only six non-Packers to catch one of his passes all season. When the Packers won, Rodgers teased Blackburn, saying he didn't recognize him in his new uniform number.
"I think he'll know who 93 is this time," Blackburn said this week.
In December, the team had just lost rookie Mark Herzlich to a sprained ankle, and Michael Boley was slowed with a hamstring injury, so they called the player who had been on the team the previous six years and thrust him into the middle linebacker role.
He made an immediate impact in that Green Bay game. Then Sunday against the Falcons, he made a key third-and-1 stop on Michael Turner.
So the question is …
"I have no idea why he wasn't on the football team all this year," DE Justin Tuck said, shaking his head.
Neither does Blackburn.
"I think I'm heading in the right direction," Blackburn said of making that point. "Every week, I'm getting more comfortable. I can't speak for (the front office), I'm just trying to help this team and continue to go."