If you searched “Viking Warrior” on Google, you might see a picture of Saints punter Thomas Morstead. A New Orleans Saint associated with Vikings? You read that right. After his gutsy performance in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, where Morstead played the vast majority of the game with heavily bruised ribs (the injury occurred on a punt return tackle), Morstead was hailed by all, including a horde of Minnesota Vikings fans, for his toughness and his sportsmanship, as he was the first Saints player back on the field for the (stupid) extra point play after the Vikings had scored a miraculous (and nauseating) walk-off touchdown.
This should not have surprised anyone, because since being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft, Thomas Morstead has been one of the toughest punters in the entire NFL. In nine years in the league, Morstead has missed only two games (both in 2015). But Morstead is more than a punter: on top of being the Saints’ holder on field goals and extra points, from 2009 to 2015 he was an integral part of the Saints kickoff unit, one of which of course included the forever famous “Ambush” play to start the second half of the 2009 Super Bowl, where he surprised the Indianapolis Colts with a deftly executed onside kick. In his Saints career, Morstead has 534 kickoffs, and nearly half of them (259) were touchbacks.
In 2017, Morstead punted 60 times, with a long of 68 yards (his career-long average is 70 yards). His punting average was 47.0 yards, with a 42.2 net average (which takes in account the return yards), thus giving back less than five yards per punt. He had no punt blocked last season, but then again, he hasn’t had a punt blocked since the 2011 season, and that was punt seven years ago was the lone blocked punt of his career. Punt protection has obviously been stellar for the Saints, but such a stat is also a reflection on how quickly Morstead releases his punts before the defenders can get to him.
The Saints punter also recorded career highs in both fair catches forced (18) and punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (26). He also had a career low two (2) touchbacks, which is outstanding. In 2017, the Saints allowed a grand total of 249 punt return yards (15.6 yards per game) and one touchdown, the first punt return touchdown allowed by the Saints in the regular season since Morstead’s rookie year in 2009, which is simply incredible.
At age 31, Morstead has shown a durability that should allow him to excel in a New Orleans Saints uniform for another four to five years, and there’s nothing greater than the feeling of having a sure-thing at such a key position. Skol Thomas! Ok, let’s not go overboard with that: Who Dat, Thomas!