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Thursday, January 9, 2014
Updated: January 10, 4:01 PM ET
Pierre Thomas returns to practice

By Mike Triplett
ESPN.com

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday for the first time since injuring his chest during the team's Week 17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It's still unclear if Thomas will play Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional round, but it's clearly a good sign of progress. The fact that the Saints never put Thomas on injured reserve indicates they're optimistic he may be able to return sooner than later. He's officially listed as questionable.

The Saints have never specified the nature of Thomas' injury.

The Saints proved they can manage without Thomas in the lineup. Last weekend, running backs Mark IngramDarren Sproles and Khiry Robinson all gave standout performances while the Saints ran for 185 yards in a 26-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card round.

Thomas, however, remains a big part of the Saints' offense as a do-everything back (runner/receiver/pass protector). The seventh-year pro always has been especially effective with screen passes. He ran for a team-high 549 yards this season, caught a career-high 77 passes for 513 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Saints' injury report looks promising. Cornerback Keenan Lewis fully participated for the second straight day after recovering from a concussion. And guard Jahri Evans (ankle) practiced fully after being limited on Wednesday.

Defensive end Akiem Hicks (ankle) remained limited for the second straight day. He was new to the injury report this week, and the severity of the injury is unknown. Hicks would be missed if he is out or limited at Seattle. The second-year pro has been a huge part of the Saints' defensive revival, especially against the run. But like with Thomas, the Saints do have depth at his position, with backup linemen John Jenkins, Tom Johnson, Glenn Foster and Tyrunn Walker all able to contribute more if needed.