(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...