New Orleans Saints Punter Thomas Morstead
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Thursday, March 4, 2021
"Yeah, I'll keep it short so we can get to questions. FYI, I'm on a car ride, I've got a beautiful wife/chauffeur right now, taking me to the airport to go have fun with Wil Lutz for a little bachelor party action. And so, I'm looking forward to hanging with those guys. But, look, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and just thanks. The experience I've had with the Saints has been...there's not one part of it I'd complain about. The whole thing's just been outstanding. And I'm obviously sad to be moving on from the team. But it is not as if I have not prepared for this moment, in a lot of different ways. But, it is shocking and I'm just grateful to all of you in the media. Obviously the season I had wasn't to the normal standard that I've set. And there's a variety of reasons for that. And I just felt like you guys have always treated myself and my teammates with fairness, and with, integrity. And I just appreciate that. So, all I'd say is New Orleans has been amazing to me and my family. We are in the process of building our (new) home right now, here. This is home, regardless of where the rest of my career takes me. My kids have all been born here. And the fans and our supporters, it has just been exceptional. And so, that's all I got."
We will open it up for some questions now. Following our protocols, if you have a question, feel free to raise your hand and Mackenzie (Rizzi) will call on you.
Look, I know, you kind of touched on it a little bit there, but I imagine even though your time with the Saints is ending, that you're still going to be a staple in, around the New Orleans community for a while.
"I certainly hope so. There's so much information to take in and different ways your brain goes. But we wouldn't have started this, build on this home if there was any doubt about where we wanted to be. We're making a large investment in building this home. And so, we had that conversation, actually, before we moved forward. If the situation changes here, does that change how we feel about being here? And once we answered that, emphatically, no. It doesn't change. Then we started doing it. So it's like I said, I'm a little bit, I'm a lot sad. And this has been a huge...this has been my life for the past 12 years here in New Orleans. And I just have no resentment, I have nothing but positive, overflowing emotions. I have so many people to thank and so many people that have supported me. And that's that."
I guess just knowing the position the team is in, were you kind of anticipating this was a possibility this year, maybe more than others?
"Yeah, look, I think I'd say, let's just call it what it was it was a unique year. So, there wasn't a lot of access with us, which was probably a good thing for me. I didn't meet any of the standards that I've set for myself in previous years this year. And there's a number of reasons for that. And when you're the highest paid player at your position, the expectation is that you're playing at an elite level. And I didn't do that last year. And I think it was pretty clear to see that I didn't do that. I have never been the biggest boomer in the league, or at least not tried to be. I have just always been a guy that relies on elite consistency. And I think it was pretty clear that that was lacking this year. And so to say, I am surprised because there was not more of a conversation around any other way for me to try to stick around or come back and show that some of the things that were issues for me, are not going to be issues moving forward. But that is out of my control. And like I said, I have nothing but just total love and respect and everything, for how the team has treated me through the years and how they...it's just like I said, that whatever expectation I could have possibly had, going into a career is just totally, totally blown it out of the water. And so, I'm just very grateful."
Obviously, your career started here, your rookie season and everybody's kind of is so synonymous with that play. Is there another moment? Or is it hard to put into kind of, you know, words, one moment that may stick out? Or do you kind of look at it all together now, I can see it's kind of emotional talking about it, just you know, is it the teammates, is it the plays, is it just a little bit of everything when you think of it as a whole?
"Look, there's certainly plays that stick out in my mind, that maybe won't stick out in anybody else's mind. The last punt of the NFC championship game against the Vikings, when I was a rookie, we were 28-28, tie game, two minutes and something left, punting to Brett Favre. And, you know, Coach said, I'll paraphrase because the language wasn't exactly the same. But, Coach (Payton) grabbed me by the shoulders as I was running out on the field on fourth down and said, give me some hang time, with a little more intensity than that. And I just remember thinking, I better hit a great ball here because if I do anything less than spectacular they are pretty much in field-goal range already and Ryan Longwell that year was like 26 out of 28, Mr. Automatic. And I hit one of the best punts of my career, and we grossed 58, netted 53. And they got this close to kicking a field goal, and they didn't, and we all know what happened. And for me, individually, that was a big source of pride that I'll never forget."
I'm sure before you spoke with us, you talked to some of your teammates, potentially. And I'm just curious if you had any parting messages with some of your former teammates, maybe like Drew (Brees), from the Super Bowl team, or even some of the young guys like Blake (Gillikin)?
"You know, I just, we were hoping to hold this off until Monday, which was probably naive. I know, the news just broke online. And the team was so great about it. They said, look, we can hold on to this as long as you want just to give you a chance to collect yourself, and kind of exit how you'd like, which is very gracious of them to even, you know, offer that. So I haven't had a chance to talk to too many people, I did have Wil Lutz and Zack Wood over at the house last night. Mainly because we have a bachelor party starting today. And I didn't want to show up to the bachelor party with some downer news. So I thought I need to knock this out before we leave. And so, I had those guys over last night. And you know, it's an emotional deal with those guys. You know, they're really close friends. And you know, it's been an awesome, awesome deal to hopefully be a mentor. And hopefully those guys feel like I've helped curb their learning curve as quickly as possible to allow them to have the success that they're having. And I called Blake (Gillikin) and left him a voicemail. And I told the team look, I think Blake has all the intangibles, to be a great player in this league. And you know, I've spent the last year investing in him and giving him my knowledge and wisdom and thoughts on how to do things and best way, best practices. You know, all the things that you have to give. I tried to give it all to him. And I just told him that, you know, that I think he's got a great chance to be a great player for the team. And I just hope that, I hope that the fans and the organization, whoever's the next punter, shows the same sort of patience and commitment to letting a young person grow into that position like I was granted."
Normally, this wouldn't be something we would do in the media, but I'm just going to say myself, and I'm sure I'm speaking for so many, we appreciate everything you've done with working relationship and beyond that, so thank you for all of that. But on those same lines, how much do you feel, just kind of overwhelmed by how much people appreciated you? I mean, let's be honest, it's not like punters get a lot of love from fan bases, but you're one of the more, I'd say people around New Orleans have so much kind of gratitude towards. How much do you appreciate just what you've been shown by this fan base?
"Like I said, everything's…All expectations have been exceeded, multiplied. And I just think, my uncle sent me a message the other day, and it just said, 'you're one of the few young people who's had the privilege of understanding how good you had it while you had it. And that means you don't have any regrets. You didn't take anything for granted.' The whole thing has just been amazing. Like I said, I keep repeating myself, but I'm just very grateful for just the entire experience. When people say, don't invest in the team, or don't invest in the city, it's kind of like saying, 'You're never going to love somebody, because you're worried about getting hurt.' Because at some point, it's going to end. I just didn't subscribe to that. I've been all in. I love this city and they've love me back 100 times more. And I'm just overwhelmed with positive, thankful energy. There's just so many people to thank, I don't want to single out anybody because if I really went through it, there'd be hundreds of people that have just been instrumental, have inspired me and encouraged me I'm very grateful."
Thomas, congratulations on a great stint here obviously. From the standpoint of being drafted in the fifth round, a lot of people questioned drafting punters or kickers, you had a lot to prove over a 12 year period, you obviously dispelled any of those concerned notions, talk about that. And then also talk about what was left on the field only getting the one Super Bowl title when the opportunities were there from your perspective?
"Well, I'll answer the second question first, because I've already forgotten the first. Sorry, but I don't have any regrets about how any of it ended. That's why you play the game. The opportunity is just special to be a part of it. And I don't have any resentment, or what if, because I know everybody was all in and we did our best. And I know that's simple and cliché, but it's true. Being a part of the history of the game, I've learned to appreciate the losses just like the wins because you just know how special it is, you know how special it is to be a part of that, to have a team like that. And to do something together. It almost feels like we're the Buffalo Bills of the 2010s. I think people will write a, there'll be a 30-for-30 about our team and how good we were and how much winning we did. And we just didn't get it done for a variety of reasons. But none of that matters. It's the people, the relationships, the grind, being all in together. And I think that's one of the reasons people are so proud of being associated with our team and organization is because I think for the most part, people like rooting for the good guys, and we just have a locker room full of them. And, man, it's been an honor to just be a part of that."
I know you haven't really had time to reflect on all this, but what is the one thing that you'd want people to just remember about you? And how you played the game here?
"I think I'd like to think that my teammates knew that they could count on me in big moments. I set out to be 'elite-ly consistent.' That was my tag or my phrase, I wanted to be elite in my consistency. I think I've done that and I'm going to continue to do that. I think, what did the city mean? Just the whole, people don't understand how awesome it is to just be part of this team. I know everybody says they have the best fans in the world. And most people are lying. There's probably four teams in the league that can at least have an argument in that and we're one of them. And, man, no matter what I've done, start a foundation, do a foundation dinner, try to help an individual, Cordaro family before Chris passed away. People have just given the shirts off their back to be a part of that. And it's honestly why so many of the things I've done have gone so far, it's because I didn't have an out. Once I started doing things, people showed up, and people supported. And I couldn't not keep going. It was people were looking for that, people were looking to be a part of something where they're helping people or helping a group of people. I don't want to say I was bluffing, but when people show up and they're like, yeah, we're here, what are you about, and I felt obligated to keep going and keep pushing and to keep doing more things. A lot of people give you props for doing these charities and all this other stuff, but it's just a testament to people down here. When they love you, and when they support you, it's not with words, they actually do it. And that's where all the positive emotions are, just all those people and being part of that. I just had the fortune of having a name that people knew. So I felt like I wanted to kind of push the needle on a few things. And man, people showed up and supported more than I ever thought was, if I had known how big it was going to get when I started, I probably wouldn't have started it because it got to be so much work and so much energy, but it was like, I'm glad we did it all. And I look forward to doing more things in the future. Like I said, I'm not done playing, but New Orleans is home. And we'll be here and raising our family here. And I know I don't perfectly fit the mold of a New Orleanian, but I feel like one."
Thomas, thanks for this on a tough day and thanks for everything. You mentioned setting the record for fewest punt returns was any of that strategic based on how you were struggling? Were you purposely trying to alter your game to make sure they weren't returned? Or is some of that coincidental?
"Well, I think I've always looked at how can you help win the game, right? And look, in the past few years we've had elite coverage and we've also had now an elite returner and elite return team. I don't want to say get naturally more conservative, but I certainly did get more conservative, especially early this year when I was struggling to find my consistency. And so yeah, I certainly was a little more conservative because I just didn't trust myself the way I typically do for the reasons I've noted. It's a cool thing to be able to say we did that as a group. And that's a credit to so many people, so many players that have been a part of that."
Then I just wanted to make sure I heard you correctly so I'm not putting words in your mouth. You said the team did not talk to you about possibly staying at a reduced rate?
"No, there wasn't a conversation about that. No, not at all. And I respect that. And like I said, I don't have any (resentment), all I have is positive emotions. I'm obviously sad, but I don't have resentment or anything like that. Mickey Loomis in particular has been, he's been an awesome mentor. And I'm very grateful to have had him as a general manager, and somebody that's always known the right thing to say at the right moment, when there was a little bit of doubt, or I was dealing with a quad injury. Or I just signed a contract extension and I was feeling the pressure to be more than I had been. There's 10 different stories of that and I'm just very grateful to Mickey."
Thank you for everything, Thomas. We're all set with questions.
Thomas, thank you very much for joining us. And I believe everybody's thanked you for your time and patience through the years and your insights. And I know that this isn't goodbye, this is just to see you later.
"Absolutely. Doug, thank you for setting everything up for the past 24 hours and, man, you're the real deal. And just appreciate the friendship. Everybody on this call, thank you for just the fairness and integrity you've done your jobs with. It's been awesome feeling like I could give out my cell number and I could confide in people and people would do the right thing. It's refreshing to know that that is the case. I'm very thankful for everything. So if anybody needs anything or wants to do a story at some point now or in the future, Doug can feel free to just hand out my number to whoever doesn't have it. I don't know if you even do that. But I just want to know that I'm accessible. And I do appreciate any sort of, anything that you put out that's written that says that the journey is not over for me and that there's some real rational reasons as to why there's a reason for optimism that I can be the player that I have been. I would appreciate that if anybody's looking to do that. I will be on a bachelor party the next few days. So if you call me I don't know if you should expect too much. This timing couldn't be better, but I promise you won't see any headlines of me in the Miami Herald or anything. Thank you guys."