Bill Belichick names a shocking player as the Rams' 'tremendous weapon'
The Patriots coach is incredibly impressed with a punter
Sometimes Bill Belichick refuses to answer questions, responding with scoffs until another one is asked. Sometimes, he'll respond with one word like, "Seattle." But if Belichick gets asked about something he truly cares about or thinks highly of, he won't just respond, he'll give reporters enough material for a book.
That's often the case when Belichick is afforded the opportunity to talk about an opposing player he admires. Belichick's love list is already lengthy, with players like Ed Reed and Le'Veon Bell firmly positioned near the top, but he added another player to that prestigious group: Johnny Hekker.
On Wednesday, Belichick called the Rams' punter "a tremendous weapon."
Here's how Belichick opened up his press conference ahead of the Patriots' game against the Rams, which means his love monologue about Hekker was not prompted by a question:
"So this is obviously a Ram team that we don't know very well, so we've spent a lot of time here the last couple of days here trying to get familiar with their players, their schemes and so forth. I'd start with saying a very talented team. They have a lot of very good players, a lot of explosive players in all three phases of the game. Let's start with the kicking game; I mean [Johnny] Hekker is a tremendous weapon. This guy looks like as good a player as I've ever seen at that position. He's a tremendous weapon in his ability to punt the ball, punt it inside the 20, directional kick it, involved in fakes, can throw, can run, very athletic."
He didn't stop there. When asked about Hekker later, Belichick continued to rave about him.
Q: How much of a weapon is Johnny Hekker not only as a punter but as an overall playmaker for their team?
BB: Yeah, he's dangerous. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, he's like a quarterback. He can throw, he can run. You've got to defend him like you'd defend one of those guys.
When asked again, Belichick didn't slow down. This time, he seemed to include Hekker in a group of all-time greats.
Q: You've praised punters before like Ray Guy, Thomas Morstead and Dave Jennings. Who else is in that discussion as greatest punters?
BB: Those guys are all in the discussion.
Q: Is there anyone else you'd include in that group?
BB: No, those guys are all in that discussion and they were all great players. I'm not taking anything away from them. [Sean] Landeta -- I mean I have a lot of personal interaction with Sean. But I mean this guy, [Johnny Hekker], this guy is a weapon. I mean he's not a good player; he's a weapon.
So, let's just say what we're all thinking right now: It might not be the best sign for the Rams that Belichick called their punter -- not a quarterback, running back, receiver, or any other player who's on the field more than five times per game -- a "tremendous weapon." But it's worth pointing out that Belichick's opening remarks also included praise for a bunch of other players. Still, he only called one player a "tremendous weapon." And that was the punter.
But he's not really wrong. Hekker is first in the NFL in punt yards (2,989), second in net yards (44.9), first in punts inside the 20 (35), and first in fair catches (27). He even unleashed a 78-yard punt earlier this season. Heck, his own teammates have called him the Rams' MVP.
And with good reason. The Rams' offense has stunk all season long, so they're entirely dependent on their defense and special teams to win games. With punts like these, Hekker can shift field position even when the offense fails to move the ball:
Alec Ogletree called Johnny Hekker the Rams' MVP this week. This punt right here ... pic.twitter.com/KJPpkh5UYi— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) November 13, 2016
But yeah, it's totally not the best sign that the punter grabbed Belichick's attention, and I'm guessing Belichick will find a way to beat the Rams despite their awesome punter.
Meanwhile, as Belichick praised Hekker, Rams coach Jeff Fisher took time to praise some random running backs named Brandon and Danny.
Jeff Fisher praising the Patriots' running backs on a conference call. Says "Brandon" and "Danny" are playing well this season. 🤔— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) November 30, 2016
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