INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — All Adam Vinatieri ever wanted was a chance to play in the NFL.
When he finally finishes his remarkable career, he may go down as the
best kicker in league history.
The man who has four Super Bowl rings, been dubbed the NFL's best
clutch kicker and become the measuring stick for all future kickers
will chase yet another milestone this weekend when he attempts to join
the league's prestigious 2,000-point club.
"I never really considered it till this year and then when I did, I
thought 'It would be kind of cool,'" said Vinatieri, the Colts kicker
who needs six points Sunday against Jacksonville to become the seventh
NFL player with 2,000. "It really says a lot about the teams I've
played for. It's a neat goal and it's a cool milestone."
Almost as cool as he has been when his teammates have needed him to
excel in Super Bowls, the snow and cold weather.
Yes, Vinatieri, who turns 41 Saturday, has been fortunate.
He spent his entire 18-year career with two of the league's most
successful franchises, the Patriots and Colts. He worked for three
Super Bowl-winning coaches — Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Tony
Dungy. He played with two of the greatest quarterbacks of his
generation — Tom Brady and Peyton Manning — and is playing now with
perhaps the best young quarterback of the next generation, Andrew Luck.
But Vinatieri also managed to step out from all those long shadows and
proved he could stand on his own two feet.
—Brady and Belichick would not have reached their first Super Bowl
without Vinatieri making two kicks on a snowy New England night that
became known as the "Tuck Rule Game." And they probably would not have
won their first two Super Bowls without last-minute kicks from
Vinatieri against St. Louis and Carolina.
—Manning and Dungy would not have won gotten their Super Bowl title,
either, without Vinatieri, who made five field goals in a chilly 15-6
divisional-round win at Baltimore in 2007.
—Vinatieri is the only kicker to play in five Super Bowls and be part
of six conference championships.
—His 16 100-point seasons are tied with Jason Elam for the most in
—He and Morten Andersen are the only NFL players to top 800 points with
two different teams.
Sometimes the memories fade from public view, like the 4-yard TD pass
Vinatieri threw to Troy Brown against St. Louis in 2004 or the
toughness he displayed at training camp in 1996 that helped Parcells
make the decision to keep him as a rookie. And other times, Vinatieri
wishes the images would go away — like the Super Bowl kickoff returns
from Desmond Howard in 1997 and Devin Hester a decade later.
They never do.
"That one I remember like it was yesterday," Vinatieri said when asked
about his diving attempt to take down Howard, an image captured in a
photo that has been displayed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But the reason Vinatieri has survived this long is that he never
allowed the good times or bad linger long enough to make a difference.
Even now, after spending most of this season as the league's oldest
player, he's still going strong. Last weekend, Vinatieri set a career
high for field goals in a season (32), his percentage of 86.5 is the
fifth highest of his career and he's tuning up for yet another playoff
appearance with the Colts (10-5).
"The only thing that's changed about Vinny is the grayness in his
beard," punter Pat McAfee said Friday. "He's the same guy he's always
A tireless worker.
Sure, the South Dakota State grad and NFL Europe alum who once wondered
if he'd ever get a chance to prove himself in the NFL, takes time off
now and then to hunt, but the reason he's still kicking around this
league is that football is his No. 1 job.
"It's because of the work he puts in in the offseason, the work ethic
he has," McAfee said. "There's a lot of wear and tear on the hips and
joints, so you have to keep your body in great shape. It's a very
explosive movement, kicking, which is why a lot of people can kick and
punt but they can't do it for very long. He does it because he puts the
How much longer can Vinatieri keep doing this? He thinks he's still got
a few more years and he'd like to finish his career Indy even though
his contract expires after the season.
If this his last go-round with the Colts, Vinatieri has a chance to go
out in style.
He enters Sunday with 1,994 career points and needs nine against
Jacksonville (4-11) to pass George Blanda (2,002) for sixth place.
Former teammate Matt Stover is fifth at 2,004. If he comes back next
season, Vinatieri could move past John Carney (2,062) and possibly
Jason Hanson (2,150) into third all-time. That would leave only Morten
Andersen (2,544) and Gary Anderson (2,434) ahead of him. None of those
numbers includes Vinatieri's NFL-record 196 postseason points, either.
But now that the Colts are in the playoffs, this goal is simple: Bring
home one more Super Bowl ring.
"That's why you play football," Vinatieri said. "I've been very
fortunate to have that opportunity. When everybody does their job,
there's plenty of credit to go around."
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