Posted December 21, 2012 on AP on Fox
Gettyimage.ashx_url_http_3a_2f_2fcache.gettyimages.com_2fxc_2f96541076.jpg_3fv_3d1_26c_3dewsasset_26k_3d2_26d_3d77bfba49ef878921a343b2c87a49d8f50ce7d8e9bfc3745ef35ad9712db028ee3b3fc56ac3354c57
(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.) Saints punter and kickoff specialist Thomas Morstead prepared for the 2012 season as if it would be his audition for a new contract. When he unexpectedly received a lucrative extension as training camp began, the pressure was off in some respects. That, however, didn't change Morstead's approach, and he now finds himself poised to set NFL records. ''You're geared up for that last (contract) year and I got my deal early,'' Morstead said this week of the six-year extension worth $21.9 million he signed in late July. ''In some ways the pressure's on because now they're paying you what they think is your value, so you better perform at that level or you'll lose your job soon enough,'' Morstead added. He won't have to worry about losing his job anytime soon. If anything, he might have an extra game to play in Hawaii. With fan voting now closed for the Pro Bowl, Morstead leads all NFC punters with 104,563 votes, making him a front-runner to get the nod for the NFL's all-star game, depending on how voting by coaches and players turns out. ''His numbers speak for themselves,'' Saints special teams coach Greg McMahon said. ''No one would be more tickled if Thomas made it (to the Pro Bowl) than myself and really our franchise. ... He's plenty good enough and he's a great worker and he's a great teammate.'' Morstead leads the NFL with a net punting average of 44.7 yards. Last season, San Francisco 49ers' Andy Lee set the current single-season record in that category at 43.99 yards. To Morstead, no statistic is more important than the net punting average, which takes into account not just the distance of a punt but how far it is returned. Morstead has shown he can blast punts more than 70 yards down the field, but doing so can be counterproductive if he outkicks the coverage and gives opposing returners room to make plays coming back up the field. So Morstead came into this season with the goal of setting a record for net punting and wasn't shy about saying so. ''I don't feel bad in going for something like that,'' he said. ''It's 100 percent good for the team. It's not like trying to break the gross average. If I try and bang it 60 yards every time and they get big returns every time, that's a selfish sort of thing.'' ''What's neat about it is that it's a team record. It's not how far I punted. It's how far I punted minus how many return yards our team allowed. It's our punt team record. It's pretty cool.'' Morstead is always looking to carefully calibrate the power and direction of his punts, even changing to a rugby-style kick on short punts, to get the optimum distance while sharply reducing an opponent's prospects for a return by either having the ball land out of bounds or by pinning the returner close to a boundary. ''We're big on directional punting,'' Morstead said. ''It's kind of like golfing a little bit, having different clubs in your bag. What are you going to hit this time? You can always have those different clubs in your bag to pull out. What's nice is the other team doesn't know what kind of club I have, so you can kind of pick and choose your spots in what you're going to do.'' At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Morstead does not look out of place on a football field as some specialists do and has a powerful leg, routinely hitting kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks. His gross punting average is still an impressive 50.3 yards, second longest in the NFL behind Miami's Brandon Field (50.6). The Saints noticed Morstead's leg strength and all around athleticism when he was at SMU. New Orleans used a fifth-round draft choice on the Texas native in 2009. While punters are rarely drafted, the Saints are pleased with their decision. ''His work ethic's phenomenal,'' McMahon said, even comparing Morstead to locker room leaders like star quarterback Drew Brees. ''His attention to detail and his routine is a lot like Brees. It's really something.'' NOTES: The Saints added RB Pierre Thomas to their injury report with knee soreness and he was limited in practice. ... RT Zach Strief (right ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis. ... RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) and CB Patrick Robinson (groin) also were limited. ... FB Jed Collins (right toe, left knee) was held out of practice. --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO

Saints players expect Payton back

There is some speculation that Sean Payton could go to another NFL team, but many Saints players believe he'll be back.

Saints Nation: If Thomas Morstead Doesn't Make the Pro Bowl, It's the Final Indictment on a ...

Very few players in my lifetime as a Saint fan have I felt more deserving of a Pro Bowl berth than Marques Colston at some point in his career. Seriously, how has he never been? What an utter crime that is. But there's one guy this season that deserves it more than he ever has, and that's punter Thomas Morstead. Morstead, despite being the punter for a small market team and...

The Saints may be out of the playoffs but they're not giving up. Week 16 Preview

The Saints travel to Dallas and will put up some points on the Cowboys. The season is coming to a close and I'm sitting at 142-82.  That's over .600 but I can do better.   Here's a look at week 16 Atlanta at Detroit - The Falcons destroyed the Giants last week and silenced a few critics that say they can't win the big game.  I still want to see...

Saints DE Will Smith & LB Jonathan Vilma Could Both Be On The Chopping Block

Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes that Saints DE Will Smith and LB Jonathan Vilma are the “most likely veterans to be released” as the team will have to begin shedding some salary during the upcoming offseason. Triplett adds that both players could end up renegotiating their salaries to remain with the team. As of now, New Orleans projects to be $16 million...

Drew Brees has no worries about losing Payton to Cowboys

Six weeks ago, The Cowboys were imploding and the Saints were nervous as the real possibility floated out there that they could lose their suspended coach Sean Payton to a Dallas team on the verge of another disastrous season.  Please Click Here To Read This Story

Drew Brees & Jahri Evans Key To Fixing Saints Salary Cap Mess?

Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports writes that the Saints could look to restructuring the contracts of QB Drew Brees and G Jahri Evans in order to free up some much needed cap space. We wrote earlier in the week that the Saints could be forced to part ways with LB Jonathan Vilma and DE Will Smith because of the salaries and the that they’re projected to be $16 million...

Brees has extra motivation against Cowboys

IRVING New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was born and raised in Dallas, he won a high school state championship at Texas Stadium in 1986 and was once a Cowboys fan. So he admits that Sunday's game at Cowboys Stadium means a little more to him than some other games. "I remember that Dallas heyday in the 90s with Troy (Aikman) and the guys," Brees said Wednesday...

New Orleans Saints: Week 16 NFL Power Rankings (#17)

Last week: 16 (-1) Record: 6-8 Net points per drive: 0.14 (12th) DVOA: -1.3% (15th) Weighted DVOA: 1.5% (14th) The Saints still remain mathematically alive for a playoff spot at 6-8 off a huge blowout home win and now they head to Dallas, where the Cowboys really struggle as home favorites and really struggle in December under Tony Romo (generally). With a home game week 17 against...

Saints Nation: 5 Things to Look For in Saints @ Cowboys

After drubbing the Bucs 41-0, I'm anxious to see the Saints play another team fighting for their playoff lives, this time on the road. Was the Bucs game an abberation of the 2012 season or have the Saints truly turned a corner? The Saints need to win out and need a massive amount of help for the postseason to work out, and well, it ain't happening. But you have to feel better...

New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys: Week 16 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (6-8) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6) The Cowboys entered December at 6-6 after a rough month of November, traditionally a strong month for them, and it looked unlikely that they would be unable to choke again this December, mostly because there would be nothing to choke away. However, after two straight wins, they are at 8-6 and in control of their own destiny, which...

Saints not fretting uncertainty over Payton

Regardless of the allure the Dallas Cowboys or some other franchises might have for a coach a successful who commands top dollar, Drew Brees cannot envision Sean Payton coaching anywhere but New Orleans next season. Brees said he does not believe money is what motivates Payton as much as the pride he takes in what he has built with the Saints, and the desire to parlay his accomplishments...

New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys: Three Bold Predictions

This week's game between the New Orleans Saints (6-8) and the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) could take many twists and turns with both teams playing some of their best football of the season.The Saints are coming off of a Week 15 41-0 dismantling of NFC South division rival Buccaneers, while the Cowboys pulled off a 27-24 dramatic overtime win against the Steelers.The past five games...
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.