Adam Vinatieri’s legacy as arguably the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history is secure, so he’s not sweating Tuesday’s rule change to move back extra-point kicks 13 yards.
The Indianapolis Colts kicker admitted Wednesday that players aren’t excited when rule changes make their jobs more difficult, but he understands the rationale behind the switch. The NFL made the change because the extra-point success rate has been 99 percent each of the past five seasons.
Instead of snapping the football from the 2-yard line on PATs, the line of scrimmage for next season’s extra points will be the 15. For Vinatieri, whose kicks are typically eight yards behind the spot of the ball, his extra points will be from 33 yards out.
“Any time you make it more difficult for guys, when they changed the rules for the defensive backs and they couldn’t touch anybody outside of a certain amount of yards, I think at that point whenever you make it harder on a guy, I don’t know if they’re going to be with open arms on that,” he said.
“But I understand what they’re trying to do. It’s going to be level across the board, every kicker is going to have to deal with it the same. We’ll embrace it and move forward with it.”
The NFL’s oldest player at 42 is entering his 20th NFL season. He was critical of the league’s decision to experiment in February’s Pro Bowl with more narrow uprights, but he stuck to a diplomatic position this time.
“Well, you knew something was going to happen,” he said. “They don’t experiment with Pro Bowl stuff unless they want to change some stuff. We’ll see how much it changes things. If they don’t think it changes it enough, they’ll continue to make things (tougher), you know?”
In the past nine seasons with the Colts, Vinatieri has converted 13-of-14 field goal attempts from 32 or 33 yards out, the lesser distance taking into account he could line up seven yards behind the spot of the ball, as some kickers do.
“There’s a lot of guys that get them votes (to change the rules) that are way higher in the pecking order than myself,” Vinatieri said. “Obviously they want it to be a more competitive, a more interesting play, I guess. They thought before that it’s just an automatic whatever.”
Vinatieri is considered a Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate when the four-time Super Bowl winner retires, based on an extensive resume that includes two Super Bowl-winning field goals in the final seconds for the New England Patriots. Those dramatic heroics earned him the nickname “Mr. Clutch.”
He’s coming off the best season of his career. Vinatieri made 30-of-31 field goals last season, the lone miss coming from 46 yards out in the regular-season finale.
His career 83.7 percent success rate ranks 16th in league history. He's made 710-of-720 PATs in his career.
Vinatieri did voice one concern about the rules changes, which will also allow the defensive team to return missed extra points for two-point scores. He wondered aloud about if that would impact the safety of the game, with more players getting injured as a result of playing out a missed extra point.
“I knock on wood,” he said, tapping the side of his locker, “I hope there’s not going to be guys that are getting blown up because now they’re coming harder.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.