NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead was a little disappointed when doctors failed to find any broken ribs on the X-ray he underwent after playing through pain in Jan. 14's playoff loss to the Vikings.
Morstead tore cartilage on the right side of his ribs, an injury that will leave him in considerable pain for the next two weeks and won't be fully healthy for four to six weeks.
Broken ribs just has a more painful ring to it.
"My ego was shot a little bit when they said my ribs weren't broken," Morstead said. "That would have sounded cooler."
Morstead suffered the injury while making a touchdown-saving tackle on Vikings return man Marcus Sherels after his first punt of the game. The veteran punter grabbed Sherels around the shoulders and rolled with him, and he immediately felt the effects of the injury.
Morstead found it hard to breathe when he got off the ground, but he stayed in the game even after being examined by Saints medical staff.
He was in obvious pain. Morstead punted twice more in the first half, doubling over in pain after each offering.
"My voice is raspy because I was kind of like a dying dog (panting)," Morstead said. "I could not comfortably breathe, and it just gives me a tremendous amount of respect for guys that I know have dealt with this. (Alvin) Kamara had a deal, Teddy Ginn Jr. had a deal at some point, and how these guys can play with that, if they felt like I felt, I just don't know how they do it."
A "local shot" helped ease the pain in the second half.
Morstead hit punts of 56, 38 and 54 yards after suffering the injury.
"It was painful, it wasn't difficult," Morstead said. "It was pretty simple in my mind. This is going to be a really good punt or a really bad punt. Either way, it's going to hurt like hell, so I might as well try and make it as good as I could."
Morstead was also one of the first Saints to come back out to defend the NFL-mandated conversion attempt that nearly didn't happen because New Orleans left the field after Stefon Diggs' miraculous touchdown.
Vikings fans, impressed by Morstead's class and toughness, found a way to show their appreciation to the Saints punter.
A Vikings fan on Reddit suggested that fellow Minnesota fans donate to Morstead's foundation, What You Give Will Grow, a gesture that has grown after Buffalo Bills fans flooded Andy Dalton's foundation with money for the last-minute touchdown pass the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback threw to beat the Ravens and send the Bills into the playoffs.
Morstead didn't find out about it until he got a text message from his foundation's executive director the night of Jan. 15. What You Give Will Grow has already been given a couple thousand dollars, mostly in small donations.
"I just heard about that last night, it's very cool," Morstead said. "Whatever we receive from them, we're going to find a hospital to give to back up somewhere in Minnesota."
What You Give Will Grow focuses primarily on pediatric cancer, and Morstead indicated that his foundation will find a hospital in the Minneapolis area and send the money received from those donations back to the state where they originated.
"I wish they were all bitter today because we had won," Morstead said. "But it's nice to see people doing nice things."