Aaron Rodgers gets all the headlines — and understandably so — but the Jets have made win-now moves up and down the roster this offseason. Even at punter.
The Jets were expected to move on from the inconsistent Braden Mann. But replacing him with Thomas Morstead — an accomplished veteran with 15 seasons, a Pro Bowl appearance and a Super Bowl ring under his belt — was a statement move. So too was giving Morstead a guaranteed one-year deal with a cap hit north of $1 million — a clear sign they plan to have him on the roster.
This will be Morstead’s second stint with the Jets; he spent seven games with the team in 2021 while Mann was injured. But he hopes this one will be completely different, save his performance. ESNY recently caught up with Morstead for some Q&A:
How relieved are you that you don’t have to field questions about what’s going on at quarterback any longer? Aaron Rodgers is here. The press conference, team gear, all of that.
That’s not why I am relieved, but it is super exciting. There is no doubt about it. It’s great. I played with (Drew) Brees for 12 years down in New Orleans. Any team can win any game any weekend, but over the course of the season there’s probably about only 10-12 teams that have a chance to win the whole thing. When you have a guy like [Rodgers], you’re in that crowd. It’s really exciting to know we’re going to have a real opportunity this year.
But at the end of the day, we haven’t done anything. We have to have a good set of OTAs to get prepped, and then we’ve got to have a really good training camp. Obviously the organization has been building something. But you don’t just pick up where you left off last year. And any player or coach who thinks that the case is very mistaken. You have to feel like you’re going out and doing a custom-build house. You have to build the brand new foundation for this team, do the framing, sort of start over from scratch. … If everyone has that attitude, I think we have a really good chance to maximize what we can be.
What is like to be back with the Jets, and to be back for what appears like it will be a much longer stay?
I wouldn’t make any assumptions, but the contract they gave me — certainly contracts speak more than words. It’s very exciting. It’s nice for me and my family to be able to plan and figure out how we’re going to do logistics this year. Any time you have a chance to go through a full offseason with the specialists you’re going to work with, and develop that continuity and bond, just get a chance to really learn each other’s behaviors and patterns and work ethics and all that, it really matters. As much time as we can get doing that leading up to the season, the better.
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When you were here in 2021, did you get to enjoy anything that comes with playing and living here?
That would be a hard no. There were still covid rules and regs. I thought I was only going to be there for 3-4 weeks, and it turned into 7-8. I just lived in a hotel. I am certainly planning on having a different experience off the field. Hopefully it’s going to be a difference experience all around, other than me playing well. I’m looking forward to it.
You won a Super Bowl as a rookie. As you said, nothing has been done. There is a long way to go. But at this point in your career, what does it mean to be on a team that has these title expectations?
In this league, you can’t take anything for granted. Just like life. Whether last year was my last year or I have five more years to go, or anywhere in between, opportunities like this are rare. You’ve got to make the most of them. Hopefully I’ll be able to pass on some of those veteran experiences of how awesome each opportunity is. You just get one shot that year. You just have to make the most of it.
How did your children’s book — “The Middle School Rules of Thomas Morstead” — come to be?
All the stuff with the “Minnesota Miracle” happened and I had 20-25 interviews at Radio Row at the Super Bowl when I went to give the check back to the hospital. My last interview was with Sean Jensen (an author and sports writer) and he just stayed in touch with me. He has his “Middle School Rules” series and he just said, ‘Do you mind if I send you a few kids books for your kids to read?’ So he sent me some, they were all really cool and then he said, ‘Would you be interested in doing one with me?’
I kind of chuckled. Dude, I’m a punter in a small market. Are you actually trying to sell books? What’s the goal here? He just said I had a different and unique story and he thought it would be worth a lot to a lot of kids and he’d like to do it. It was a great experience. My kids love it.
You know, punters can be big in this market!
My goal is not to become a household name. All I want to do is punt the football when called upon. I want to be so good and so consistent and reliable that no one really talks about me. I want my coaches and teammates to know they can count on me in big moments. And I hope we don’t punt enough for me to even be talked about.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.