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Greg McMahon Discusses Special Teams Unit and Kicking in High Altitude

Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon met with the media on Thursday to discuss the kicking unit in Denver, the return game and Thomas Morstead's performance


New Orleans Saints Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon
Post-Practice Media Availability
Thursday, October 25, 2012

Do you find that being in the high altitude helps Thomas Morstead and Garrett Hartley?

We feel good about those guys even before we talk about heading to Denver. But certainly if you look at numbers and percentages, the ball should go further the higher you go. But, we're not making a big deal about it. What do you do if you get there and there's four inches of snow? All of a sudden it's not the altitude (to adjust for), it's rain, snow, wind. Altitude is something. They're going to kick it off, we're going to catch it and field it and if it's a touchback, we have to down it."

What is the typical addition to a kicker's field goal range in the mountain air?

"I don't know. Every day's different. When we get there, we use pregame to check the wind, if there's rain or snow and what we do each game is warm up and after warmups, we say "what yard line are we talking' 35, 33? Some days we're hitting it better than others. We use pregame for that. I don't really like to say five yards, because I don't know what the night's going to be, but we'll figure it out. It is what it is."

Have you ever seen the tactic on a field goal attempt that Tampa Bay used on Sunday where they were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty?

"I've seen it. Our guys are disciplined. You just rep it. The nice thing is that everyone noticed, we held it, snapped it and kicked it through the uprights. That's a great rep for us. The call was correct, which led to a first down and a touchdown, which was huge."

Do you let the officials know about things like that to look for before the game?

"Not just Tampa, but you have a checklist of things you see on tape, or maybe in general, maybe not your opponent. That's something we're always alert for. Certainly we're in the National Football League where we have the best players in the world and we also have the best officials. Those guys are human. Every once in a while they miss one. But for the most part they are right on. That was absolutely the right call, no doubt."

What do you see from Darren Sproles on special teams?

"He's one of those rare players. His greatest strength in he wants to do everything, every rep in practice, every rep in the games. He can catch punts. He can catch kickoffs. He's a running back. He's definitely a guy that we can use as a weapon. We're trying as many times as we can to get the ball in his hands. He's an electric guy."

When it doesn't come as fast in the short term this year, is he a guy you have to teach a little patience to?


Does he understand that things break at certain times?

"Anytime he catches the ball, I know when we coached against him in San Diego, we held our breath. When we faced him in London, we were (worried). He's just one of those rare guys and all it takes is one guy playing with the wrong leverage. We've all done this. You guys have done this long enough. It comes. Sometimes it comes two or three in a row or sometimes it takes a few, but you just keep pounding sand. The guy's a professional. The guys covering kicks are good. The punters understand it, so maybe they're not giving him all the balls he ordinarily gets and there are a lot of touchbacks. Like the other day, we had a 15-yard punt (return) that would have been longer had they not put holding on it. It puts a premium on not having holding penalties. That was the one thing we definitely have to address is that we have three penalties in a game and we absolutely can't have it because with Darren with the ball in his hands, good things can happen."

Thomas Morstead is putting up some pretty historical numbers. Is he doing some things better than anyone else?

"He's just one of those guys no different than Drew (Brees) or Darren, I think Thomas when he comes in this building, he wants to be better and better and better. I think 15 years from now, he's going to be like that. He's very rare in that. And, he works at his craft. He spends a lot of time studying it. He has a very good get off. He has a very good directional punt, just like the other day when we punted the ball and he put it four or five yards on the sideline when Rafael (Bush) was able to cap the ball. He is definitely a weapon whether it's kicking off or punting. He's a good player."

Are we seeing things that aren't done before?

"He'll tell you he has room to improve too. I tell him that sometimes our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses. You don't have to play perfect. You just have to play well and he wants to play perfect and that's a great strength. At the same time you keep pushing through it. He's a joy to coach."

Is there any reason a few of the top statistical punting years have come recently? Are there rules changes involved?

"I don't know. I think like anything in football, these guys are bigger and stronger, no different than in baseball. When I was a kid, catchers weren't very big. Now I go to baseball games and catchers are huge. You look at the punters around the league and they are big. (Shane) Lechler's big. Morstead's big. The kid from Cal in Jacksonville (Bryan) Anger's big. They are big, strong guys and maybe that's the era where in."

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