No Saints punter was Morsteady

Scooter Hobbs

No matter where the New Orleans Saints go from here, sorry, it just won’t be the same.

Really, just can’t imagine them lining up and not seeing that familiar silhouette waiting for the snap from center.

There will be a void.

It was too familiar, too reliable, too ingrained in the fleur des lis culture to imagine the Who Dats without him. Maybe we thought it would never end.

Oh, yes, it will take some getting used to.

Many of us thought there would be no Saints after his departure.

It had been rumored, for sure.

But now it’s a done deal and it’s hard to come to grips with.

Still no official word, by the way, on what Drew Brees is going to do.

But if there’s a player who the Saints locker room, its fan base, the whole city, the state and especially the media that cover the team is going to miss almost as much as Brees, it’s got to be Thomas Morstead.

And we’re talking a punter who was released Thursday.

Go figure.

Other than third-string quarterback, that might be the best job in all of sports.

Morstead not only seemed to understand that, he almost relished it, revelled in it in a don’t-pinch-me sort of way.

Far from the entitled athlete, he seemed to understand how lucky he was and almost crossed the line of having “fun” getting paid gobs of money to play a game.

But Thursday was just one more reminder that the NFL, at its heart, is a cold, cruel business, as unemotional at its core as the fans are emotional.

At least the Saints had the common decency to almost apologize for cutting Morstead.

Usually a punter wouldn’t even get a nice parting gift when shown the door.

Dime a dozen.

But General Manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton were both moved enough to put out statements lauding one of the NFL’s best at his position and surely at the top of any list of best “teammates.”

Payton called him a “great leader and mentor to many younger players.”

Loomis called him “the epitome of the consummate pro.”

This is a punter, mind you.

So nothing personal, you know, just business.

The move reportedly saves the team $2.5 million on the salary cap for next season.

Maybe it’s the smart play for a team that by all reports is treading water in that pesky thing right now.

But the team and its fans lose a lot more.

They can probably find and audition a bartender somewhere who can punt.

Everything else Morstead brought to the team and one of the best locker rooms in the NFL is little trickier.

The media will go into mourning over losing one of the best interviews in the league.

Who can forget when one of Brees’ better days kept his punting skills out of sight and mind on the bench for the entire game? Morstead barged in on Brees’ postgame news conference and promptly hijacked it, faux-begging for questions about what a great day the punter had.

He also handled kickoffs in the odd years when the Saints placekicker didn’t have the strongest leg.

That’s how his most famous play came about. Yes, it was Morstead, the punter, who squibbed the onside kick that the Saints recovered and subsequently scored as the pivotal, momentum turning play in the Super Bowl victory over the Colts.

Shortly after he got the bad news, there he was doing a media virtual interview from the passenger’s seat of his car.

His wife was driving him to the airport so he could fly to attend Saints placekicker Will Lutz’s bachelor party.

Of course he was. He’ll no doubt be the life of that soiree, too.

In the ride-along interview he admitted he was a little surprised the Saints didn’t even discuss maybe taking a salary cut to bring him back.

Bitter ending?

He toured the Saints’ compound to personally thank almost every employee from the top down.

“I have nothing but total love and respect for how the team has treated me through the years,” he said on the way to the airport. “Whatever expectation I could have possibly had going into a career was just totally blown out of the water, so I’m just very grateful.”

Morstead isn’t ready to call it quits just yet. He said he hopes to catch on with another team.

But he’ll always be a Saint and New Orleans will always be home.

“People don’t understand how awesome it is to be a part of this team,” he said. “I know everybody says they have the best fans in the world. Most are lying. There’s probably four teams in the league that can have an argument in that and we’re one of them.”

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.comScooter Hobbs (American Press)

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