RENTON, Wash. -- Going by the fundamentals of the game, players shouldn't field a punt inside their 10-yard line.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll knows that sometimes a player like Golden Tate can improvise on those rules. Tate did so Sunday when he fielded a punt at the 4 and returned it 71 yards to the Tampa Bay 25, an emotional turning point in Seattle's comeback victory.
“Golden gets it,” Carroll said Monday. “He can sense it. He can see the coverage and go back to the ball [in the air]. Not everybody can do that. He's really good at it.”
So Carroll doesn't put hard-and-fast stipulations on Tate as far as when to return a punt and when not to.
“It isn't a wide-open policy,” Carroll said. “It's dictated by the expertise of that individual. It goes back to the base philosophy of trying to utilize people's special talents.
“There have been guys like that over the years that you're better off cutting them loose, because they will make great plays for you. You can restrict them and make them pretty ordinary. We don't do it that way.”
Carroll pointed out two other players over the years whom he trusted to take chances. One was Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu when he played for Carroll at USC. The other is Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
“It's like how we feel about Russell," Carroll said. “If you trust that he's going to make good decisions, then the risk is minimized. That's the idea. With another player, I might not think that way.
“Golden is a unique football player, as is Russell. At times, they will make better decisions than we can point out. It's not always going to work out, but for the most part, it will. If I didn't think so, we wouldn't do it.”
Tate said after Sunday's game that he feels every time he touches the ball he has a chance to make a big play.
“He's never not said that," Carroll said Monday. “I would tell him, ‘Don't tell me. Show me.' But I totally agree with him. He's got a couple of knucklehead plays in him [like the taunting penalty on his 80-yard TD catch and run at St. Louis] that we've seen, obviously. But in general, there is so much creativity to him that you want to let him create.
“He's an extraordinary natural athlete with great gifts. We saw it in the process of drafting him. You have to come to appreciate him. We didn't respect that enough at first as he was learning to be a player in our system. He's a free-spirited and confident athlete that believes he can do special things in a game.”