The Unlikely Weapon is 37 years old, and he is the punter, and the Jets thank their lucky stars for Thomas Morstead.
“He’s one of those things that when you have a great one, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ All of a sudden, you’re getting the ball on the 50, plus-50, whatever it may be. When you don’t have one, you feel it. Those type of things can go by the wayside, but we’re making sure we don’t take that for granted, man. In this league, any edge you can get is an edge,” Garrett Wilson told The Post, “and he’s a weapon, bro.”
Morstead was standing at his locker Wednesday as AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, one of two punters in the past six seasons and one of 15 since 2008 to drop three punts inside the 5-yard line — which he did Sunday against the Giants. His punt to the 8-yard line against the Chiefs and the 6 against the Broncos led to safeties.
Obviously the shorter the field, the better for Zach Wilson.
“You force a team to have to drive the field that far, more likely than not they’re not gonna score,” D.J. Reed said. “And then, they’re not getting past our 50, so when they have to punt, we’re gonna be inside plus territory for ourself to score a field goal or touchdown.
“Man, that’s a weapon.”
The Unlikely Weapon is No. 2 in punt yardage (1,918) and No. 4 in fewest punt return yards allowed (119, minimum 30 punts).
“T-Mo, he’s just a true professional, man,” Quinton Jefferson said, “the way he goes about his business. Week in, week out, he just makes our job easier, pinning those guys back when a team has to drive the whole length of the field, especially dealing with our defense. Just hats off to him, he’s playing lights out this year.”
Bryce Huff: “T-Mo’s an absolute dog.”
Every released dog doesn’t always have his day. Morstead played 12 years with the Saints, won a Super Bowl as a rookie with Sean Payton, and then one fateful day it was over.
“I was shell-shocked,” Morstead recalled. “I had a really down year for the first time in my career. I had been dealing with a back injury that I couldn’t get over it quick enough, it happened right before training camp started. And then I also had a vision issue that I had to get corrected, and I have since. It was hard, it was really hard.
“It’s something you know is coming at some point. Nothing lasts forever. But it was very difficult, first time ever getting released.”
Following a seven-game interim stay with the Jets in 2021 when Braden Mann was plagued with a back injury, Morstead finished the season in Atlanta before moving on to Miami last season. He was not ready to punt on his career.
“A lot of people told me I should retire, like, ‘Don’t ruin your legacy by going to another team. You’ve been to the Pro Bowl, you won the Super Bowl, you’ve done it all,’ ” Morstead told The Post. “And I just wasn’t done. I love it, and I want to keep going. It’s a cool chance for me to persevere, let my kids see dad kind of getting kicked, and I don’t know how many opportunities people really get to do that in their life where they get to show their kids how to respond to something that doesn’t go your way, and that’s devastating. I was excited about the challenge of trying to get back. So it’s been a long road to do that. I’m very proud of it.”
The Unlikely Weapon does not live in fear of the touchback and enjoys going for the jugular.
“I think part of it’s just having an aggressive mindset,” Morstead said.
“Sometimes if you can get that ball outside the numbers and inside the 10, a lot of times returners won’t catch that ’cause a lot of returners are coached not to catch that. Anytime the returner doesn’t catch the ball, it’s typically a good thing ’cause they’re not returning it. Just gotta be aggressive in those moments.”
It is not lost on Sauce Gardner what an impact the Unlikely Weapon has made.
“He put us in a lot of great positions, bring able to consistently get offenses backed up after a punt, that’s just great, that’s huge,” Sauce said. “That’s huge for our offense as well, being able to as long as we do what we have to do on defense, get our offense the ball with a short field. … Field position can really be the deciding factor.”
What a feeling trotting to the sidelines to all those congratulations.
“It’s pretty fun. It’s pretty fun,” Morstead said. “Especially with our defense, when those guys come out and the ball’s on the 3-yard line, they’re thinking they’re gonna score, and it’s just fun.”
You bet Morstead appreciates being appreciated again.
“I don’t care what job you have on any team, it’s cool to be appreciated,” he said. “It’s cool to be valued as somebody that they can count on. The nature of this beast is every week’s a new week, so when you have a good one, you enjoy it, and then you’ve kind of gotta put your feet back on the floor. It’s all about what the next punt looks like and the next play looks like.”
Morstead signed back with the Jets not long after Aaron Rodgers announced that he wanted to be a Jet.
“I was excited about the potential of it. I didn’t know how serious they were, to be honest. And then they were serious. I left on great terms here two years ago, so the chance to come back here and the rumors of Aaron being here and the potential of being a part of the team that could have a chance to do something special was exciting,” Morstead said, “and still is exciting.”
Imagine what the Unlikely Weapon could do for Rodgers.
This story originally appeared on NYPost