FOXBORO -- Ever the special-teams coach, Bill Belichick never shies away from an opportunity to point out when a player excels in the kicking game. Last year he couldn't stop calling Rams punter Johnny Hekker "a weapon."
He was at it again, with a new punter in focus, on Wednesday.
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Unprompted during the opening statement of his first press conference of the week, Belichick went out of his way to shine a light upon the abilities of Saints punter Thomas Morstead.
"Morstead's about as good a punter as this league's ever seen," Belichick said flatly. "Tremendous, tremendous player. Accurate, long, good plus-50, does everything well."
There was more.
Later, on a conference call with Saints reporters, Morstead was once again a focal point. Asked what makes Morstead so effective, Belichick replied simply, "Everything."
"I mean, he’s got great leg strength, placement, technique," added Belichick, who spent eight years of his career as a special teams coach or a special teams assistant. "He’s a good situational punter, handles the rush well, good directional punter, good plus-50 punter, can change field position. I mean, he’s really good, really good."
Belichick caught some by surprise last summer when, during an answer to a question about Howie Long and the Long family, he somehow transitioned to Patriots joint practices with other teams and their benefits. That led him to, of course, more Morstead, who visited Gillette Stadium with the Saints for joint work the week prior.
"Watching Morstead last week, you’re not going to see it any better than that if you put the ball in the jugs machine," Belichick said. "It’s a clinic."
Now that the Jugs Machine is back in his sights as a Week 2 opponent, Belichick knows he'll have to prepare his punt-return team for the skill level they'll be dealing with.
"You take the jugs machine, crank it up on high and shoot the ball up 55 to 70 yards downfield a yard from the sideline, like he does most of the time," Belichick said. "You know, not many guys that can punt the ball like him. Again, it’s not just his distance but it’s placement, accuracy. I mean, his plus-50 punts are like from the minus-40. He’s just different because of his strength and power and control."
Morstead is in his ninth year out of Southern Methodist. He made the Pro bowl in 2012 and was named Second-Team All-Pro that year. He is second all time in yards per punt (47.0 yards).