BY Art Thiel 08:09PM 12/23/2014

Thiel: Punter Hekker key man in Rams’ tricks

Johnny Hekker of Bothell High School and Oregon State signed a six-year, $19 million contract extension because he is a wily weapon for St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

This was how close the Seahawks came to beating the Rams in St. Louis Oct. 19. Trailing 21-19, Russell Wilson overthrew Jermaine Kearse in the end zone. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

It is usually the case that the Seahawks are in the position of outwitting the adversary. But not when the foe is the St. Louis Rams under Jeff Fisher, who may be the craftiest coach in the NFL. He outsmarted the Seahawks Oct. 19 in a 28-26 win in St. Louis, and he’s back again Sunday in the regular season finale Sunday at the Clink to spoil the party.

“Our guys respond well — they’re excited about the things we add in on a weekly basis,” said Fisher on a teleconference Tuesday with Seattle media. “They expect to go out there and execute it if we dial them up.”

Fisher’s had his phone dialed to “wacky” when he used three big plays on special teams to turn the game. Up two points, the dagger was a fake punt that turned into a first down inside two minutes, which allowed the Rams to run out the clock and avoid giving the ball back to Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who shredded the Rams with a rare, 300 pass / 100 rush day.

“I don’t think we stopped them any in the second half,” said Fisher, explaining why he chose the high-risk play of faking from his own 18-yard line, with his punter on the three. A bobble or a failure to get 10 yards would have given the Seahawks the ball in chip-shot field goal territory to win the game.

He has s great bag of tricks,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday. “He has pulled off a lot of great plays and great finishes, and he’ll surprise you with all kinds of things.

“We honor that and respect it — unfortunately, we have been the victim of that a couple of times, to his credit. We will very much be on the alert.”

A key man in the Fisher shenanigans is Johnny Hekker, a former quarterback from Bothell High School who recently signed a six-year contract extension worth up to $19 million because he can pull the trigger on what seems like hare-brained stunts.

“It’s very fun, but it’s also just kind of a ‘to much is given, much is expected,'” said Hekker, who, at the request of Seattle media, may have been the first punter in NFL history to be chosen for a game-week teleconference interview. “So we got to make sure that we’re always ready and do our best when we do have those fake opportunities. I think we’re practicing enough that we are definitely ready to go on Sundays.

“Being able to play for a coach that does like to throw that kind of stuff in quite frequently is kind of fun. It throws the players a bone that sometimes doesn’t get recognized.”

Hekker took the snap and saw Seahawks CB DeShawn Shead was out of position to cover RB Benny Cunningham, who took the pass in the flat and rambled 18 yards for a preposterous first down that killed the clock. But this is more like a series of popular online games than what is described above.

“I had no idea we were doing it when I ran on the field,” Hekker said. “Then I got the signal from the bench and I thought, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’ ’’

It was the second time in his career Hekker burned the Seahawks. In his rookie season of 2012, the Rams faked a field goal against Seattle. Hekker, the holder, threw 2-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola in a game the Rams won 19-13.

“I guess I just channel my inner Bothell Cougar,” he said to laughs. “But I don’t really think too much about it. I think the more I think about it, the higher the likelihood is I’m just going to short-arm it, or just throw one right in the dirt.

” So I got to just go out there and be relaxed.”

That will not be the term used to described the Seahawks special-teams defense when Hekker takes the field.


On the health front, Carroll seemed fairly positive about RT Russell Okung’s return Sunday from a bruised lung, as well as TE Cooper Helfet (bruised ribs). He was less optimistic about C Max Unger (high ankle sprain) and doubtful about WR Jermaine Kearse (hamstring). The starting center spot between Patrick Lewis and Lemuel Jeanpierre remains undetermined . . . The Seahawks signed to the practice squad TE RaShaun Allen, S Dion Bailey and WR Douglas McNeil, who was to play in the Arena League. Released were TE Gator Hoskins and DT Jimmy Staten, a fifth-round draft choice.


  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Seattle finished 5~3 on the road partly because of that loss.
    Hekker the Seahawk Heckler…a tormentor of nightmares…. at least to CB DeShawn Shead. Good thing he proposed to his GF long BEFORE that play.(kidding DeShawn).

    Egg on the face doesn’t EVEN cover it though since it was game over when that abhorred mistake was made to leave a ram wide open. If the Hawks hadnt played out of their minds this last 5 games that game could easily have cost them a play off spot.
    Im sure a few Hawks muttered “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ” on the looooooong plane ride home from the South that night… and now here we have destiny~that beating these guys means something is a perfect tonic to get that months old 3~3 bad taste out of their mouths over that silly loss in ST Louis.SEA has a win streak to keep intact and finish 7~1 at home should they prevail. Go Hawks. Beat those Rams.

    • art thiel

      Good pull for you to remember the two things Shead is known for.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Rams under Fisher have had rough seasons, but they sure seem to find redemption when they play us. And in terms of playing the spoiler Fisher seems to relish it, see the coin toss from the recent Redskins game as exhibit A.

    I also kinda wonder if the Cards were suffering a post Rams hangover last weekend, as they had just won a tight and physical game with them the previous week. Notable that they lost Stanton in that game too.

    I hope for a win and no injuries!

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      For whatever reasons there seems to be no team the Rams hate more than the Seahawks… although you would be hard pressed to convince the Giants of that who called the Rams thugs last week after that scrum that received player ejections.
      It looks like it will be a bruisefest in getting to the winners circle against this bunch.

      • art thiel

        The one problem Fisher has, and Carroll to a lesser extent, is keeping players from going over the edge and committing fouls.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          The other problem?The Rams are consistently an unruly bunch (ask the Giants) …like the whole New Orleans environment that turned into a fiasco…its almost as if he welcomes that cheap neighborhood bully stuff…perhaps doesnt ask them to be that guy but he sure doesnt seem to try to put a lid on it.

    • art thiel

      I think Fisher is the sharpest coach in the league, with Carroll and Belichick right behind.

  • jafabian

    I’m wondering if the Seahawks might pull out a few trick plays themselves on Sunday. Just to kind of tweak Fisher a bit. Expecting a game similar to last Sunday’s.

    • art thiel

      Carroll is not above payback. It would also serve as warning to playoff foes.