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Saints release veteran punter Thomas Morstead

The New Orleans Saints have released longtime punter Thomas Morstead ahead of free agency.

New Orleans Saints v Cleveland Browns

The New Orleans Saints announced that they’ve terminated the contract of veteran punter Thomas Morstead. Morstead’s release was reported by Sports Overtime’s Nader Mirfiq. Morstead has been with the organization since New Orleans selected him in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft. He was one of three remaining players from the Super Bowl XLIV team; just Drew Brees and Malcolm Jenkins remain on the team. The move clears up $2.5M in cap space, per Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football.

Morstead, admittedly caught off guard by the release, held a Zoom press conference on the way to the airport for kicker Wil Lutz’s bachelor party. “I’m obviously sad to be moving on from the team,” Morstead noted, but feels nothing but gratitude towards the Saints organization for his time with the team.

“This is home regardless of where this takes me.”

To Morstead, New Orleans is his home; his release doesn’t change this. His family is building a home in the city, regardless of where his career takes him in the future. A team captain since 2013, Morstead has been a cornerstone of the Saints organization since winning Super Bowl XLIV. He is perhaps best known for that particular game, where he executed the gutsiest kick in Super Bowl history with “Ambush.” The surprise onside kick had never been attempted prior to the 4th quarter, and Morstead not only rose to the challenge, but did so as a rookie.

That’s the type of player Morstead was, and it’s what makes him the epitome of a New Orleans Saint. His onside kick came at a time when the team needed a spark more than ever: down and demoralized, in the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance, one that would bring great closure to that chapter of the team, and the city after Hurricane Katrina.

He now ends his career as the team’s all-time leader in punts with 692, 32,190 punting yards, and 46.52 yards per punt. Morstead reigned as a top punter in the league until a decline in performance in the 2020 season. His numbers dropped off after over a decade of elite play, and this decision certainly did not come easily.

Morstead intends to keep fighting and noted plans to continue playing elsewhere after fighting through back injuries and some eye issues last season. He told the media that he left a voicemail for the likely next man up, punter Blake Gillikin, and urged fans to be patient and bolstered the younger talent. As an impeccable mentor should.

The Saints will lose both leadership and continuity with Morstead, who has traversed through the last decade with the team. Much like his teammate, Drew Brees, Morstead still feels like he has something left in him, and something to prove. He intends to prove that he’s still an elite player, and any organization would be lucky to have him.

As the press conference came to a close, Morstead became emotional when speaking about the city and the organization. It’s rare for a punter to invoke such a sense of emotion and loss from fans, and those outside the city likely won’t ever have such strong ties to a special teams player. But New Orleans has always been known for its special teams unit, and that infamous list includes Steve Gleason, and now Thomas Morstead.

In his closing words, Morstead was eloquently simple. “I know I don’t perfectly fit the mold of a New Orleanian, but I feel like one.” He will be enormously missed.

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