Colts’ Vinatieri still getting kick out of milestones
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Colts players consider Adam Vinatieri a true treasure.
At age 42, he might actually fit the description.
He owns four Super Bowl rings, has made six AFC title game appearances, and has been involved in some of the most memorable moments in league history. He’s tackled Herschel Walker, been the beneficiary of the Tuck Rule, thrown a touchdown pass, and even watched an ex-teammate drop kick an extra point. Yet somehow the oldest player in football still finds himself kickin’ it.
”He’s got a special talent and an extraordinary personality for the job,” said backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who became the second member of Indy’s 40-year-old club last Friday. ”He is unfazed by any amount of pressure. Clutch, I guess, is the way you’d say it.”
Hasselbeck certainly didn’t coin the phrase.
Vinatieri was dubbed the best clutch kicker in league history more than a decade ago after making two Super Bowl-winning kicks for New England – and the two crucial kicks in the Snow Bowl that helped Bill Belichick reach his first Super Bowl.
That was only the first chapter of Vinatieri’s incredible tale.
After playing 10 seasons for Bill Parcells and Belichick, the New England icon packed his bags and rather than head home to South Dakota signed with the Pats’ rival. Ten years later and one week after becoming the third-leading scorer in league history, Vinatieri is chasing three more milestones Sunday against Jacksonville (1-2).
He needs one field goal to pass John Carney (478) for fourth on the NFL’s career list; two points to break Mike Vanderjagt’s franchise scoring record (995); and six points to become the first NFL player to score 1,000 points with two teams.
”It’s funny, it feels like two separate careers,” Vinatieri said Wednesday. ”My children don’t even remember me playing in New England.”
Some of his current teammates might not, either.
Seven Indy players were less than 5 years old when Vinatieri made his NFL debut at Miami on Sept. 1, 1996. And those who have been around the league a while still marvel at what Vinatieri’s done and how long he’s been doing it.
”One thousand points with two teams? That’s big, man. He’s been doing a lot of great things for a long time,” 32-year-old running back Frank Gore said. ”He’s doing the right things to stick around.”
A good supporting cast helped, too.
Vinatieri has played for four Super Bowl coaches: Parcells, Belichick, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell. Parcells already is a Hall of Famer, and Dungy has been a finalist each of the past two years.
And he’s played with the two best quarterbacks in Patriots history – Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe – and what will likely be the Colts’ top two passing leaders, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
But teammates credit Vinatieri’s crafty, calm demeanor with helping him stay on top of his game.
”I see a pro’s pro,” 34-year-old safety Mike Adams said. ”He doesn’t complain. He comes in, he goes about his craft and that’s the kind of guy you want to be out there with in crunch time. ”
This has not been Vinatieri’s finest start, though. After putting together a nearly perfect kicking season in 2014, he is 0 for 2 this season and still grimaces over the 29-yarder he missed in Indy’s 20-7 home loss to the Jets. It was the first time he missed a kick shorter than 30 yards since 2007.
Some contend it’s a sign of Vinatieri showing his age. The Colts don’t buy it.
Neither does Vinatieri, who enjoys the game as much today as he did when he got a shot to play in NFL Europe in 1996.
”I never imagined I’d play 20 years in this league. Twenty years is a long time. The league average is just over three years, so I’ve played a lot of careers worth,” Vinatieri said. ”It’s been amazing. I’ve stayed healthy, I’ve been part of a lot of championships, a lot of amazing wins and a lot of fun.”
NOTES: QB Andrew Luck (right shoulder), TE Dwayne Allen (left ankle) and OLB Trent Cole (knee) were all limited at Thursday’s practice. … RB Tyler Varga (concussion) missed practice for the second straight day. … The Colts promoted RB Zurlon Tipton from the practice squad to the active roster, waived DE Earl Okine, and reached an injury settlement with CB Sheldon Price, which takes Price off the injured reserve list.
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