You may treat punts and kickoffs as times to go to the refrigerator or bathroom. Or both.
Take this as advice for those kicking plays during the Seahawks opener Sunday at St. Louis: Hold it.
No NFL team does more shenanigans on special teams than the Rams. St. Louis punter Johnny “Heck with That” Hekker once completed two fake-punt passes in a single game back in 2012.
And it seems no team has been duped more by the Rams than Seattle.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
That’s why Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider spent more of his spring and summer than he cares to specify dissecting how the Rams do it — and how to prevent them from doing it again on Sunday.
How far has Schneider gone back into the archives to prepare for this opener?
“Oh, forever,” the Seahawks’ sixth-year assistant said. “You go by all the past years what the coordinator’s done, what (coach Jeff) Fisher’s done. And it’s everything.
“Then you try to anticipate other things that can happen.”
Such as, say, a fake punt return?
The Rams pulled off that rarity in the first half of these teams’ last game in St. Louis last October. The Rams knew that when Seattle’s Jon Ryan punted from near midfield, his tendency was to kick to about the 10-yard line near the left sideline. So in that situation in the second quarter they sent returner Tavon Austin and six teammates to the opposite, right sideline near the 10. Stedman Bailey was the lone Ram running down the left sideline where Ryan had punted the ball. All but one Seahawk coverage man followed Austin and his blockers to the opposite sideline as Bailey caught the punt alone with his back to the line of scrimmage. He then ran four-on-one to the end zone for a 90-yard touchdown that put St. Louis up, 21-3, midway through the second quarter.
Then in the fourth quarter, the Rams faced fourth-and-3 from their own 18 leading 28-26 with 2:55 left. Every conventional coach back through Amos Alonzo Stagg would punt there, knowing a failed conversion would hand Seattle the ball and likely the game inside the 20. But Fisher isn’t conventional. He and st. Louis special teams coach John Fassel had Hekker throw a fake-punt pass in the left flat to left-alone running back Benny Cunningham. That first down effectively ended Seattle’s rally in the eventual upset loss.
“They have a big, big notebook of deceptive plays that they’ve used in all phases of their game, and particularly in their special teams,” coach Pete Carroll said before the Seahawks left for St. Louis Friday. “Like way, way more than anybody else does, and they execute really well.
“Our guys are on alert. This helps us for the whole season because nobody does as much as they do, and so we’ve had to be ready as we’ve gone through camp and all that for all of the different stuff, and that hopefully will make us better.
“That doesn’t mean we have it nailed, though, because they’re very adept and can make it very difficult on you.”
Schneider laughed this week when asked how much of his summer was devoted specifically to being aware of what the Rams have, can and might possibly do on special teams.
“Oh, yeah, whenever you have a game like that, that goes through you,” he said. “We just keep working on it, trying to play the best we can.”
The Seahawks lost their special teams ace, fullback Derrick Coleman, to a freaky broken foot in warmups minutes before that Rams game last October and were in scramble mode the rest of that day. Not that that alone is a viable excuse, but Coleman is back and fully healed for this one.
“DC went down in warmups. That affected it right off the bat. Our guys were in and out,” Schneider said.
“This is the healthiest we’ve been collectively, with guys that we have here that we really like. And then we’ve added to that with some guys we really think will help us.”
Sprinting outside kick cover guy Ricardo Lockette is back. And dazzling rookie kickoff and punt returner Tyler Lockett has arrived. That’s why Schneider said this is the most complete special teams package he’s had in six years with Seattle.
The man who’s been coaching special teams since 1994 at Colorado State has specifically high praise for Lockett. The third-round pick from Kansas State returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown in the first preseason game and a punt 67 yards for another score in the third one.
“He’s like a 10-year pro in his rookie year, the way he prepares,” Schneider said. “You just trust him as you are making decisions that good things are going to happen with him.
“I think that’s the most complete (rookie) I’ve ever seen.”
Now if he can only tackle the right guy on the Rams’ next fake kick return.
Carroll said he had no problem with star RB Marshawn Lynch wearing holdout SS Kam Chancellor’s No. 31 jersey for Thursday’s practice “because we all wish Kam was here.” But the coach added “we don’t need to keep doing it.” So don’t expect Lynch to try to wear 31 in Sunday’s game Chancellor is skipping — at a cost to him of $267,647 in one game check. … CB Tharold Simon is listed as questionable with a toe injury but Carroll said “he’ll be ready to play.” If Simon doesn’t, the roles of nickel back Marcus Burley and maybe All-Pro CB Richard Sherman could increase. … Third TE Cooper Helfet will play after having a sore knee. … LB Mike Morgan is out with a hamstring injury.
SUNDAY: Regular-season opener, Seattle at St. Louis,
10 a.m., Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM