Vinatieri ready for possible farewell game at New England
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Adam Vinatieri savored all those New England celebrations.
He made the two big field goals in the ''Tuck Rule'' playoff game and, of course, the two game-winning Super Bowl kicks.
On Sunday, the longtime Patriots kicker will return to his former home, possibly for the final time.
''It's amazing,'' the 42-year-old Colts kicker said when asked about his career this week. ''I could never have been more lucky. If I wrote it as a book, people would never believe it.''
The NFL's oldest player has played for three Super Bowl-winning coaches - Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy. He's played with three No. 1 draft picks - Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck - and a three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Tom Brady. And, yes, as a rookie, Vinatieri actually did run down Dallas' Herschel Walker on a kickoff return.
Along the way, Vinatieri filled his resume with other incredible feats.
He has four Super Bowl rings, is a perfect 6-0 on championship weekend as he makes his seventh appearance Sunday at New England (13-4).
Vinatieri also is the NFL's career postseason scoring leader (233 points), and this weekend, he can make history in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
He will surpass Jerry Rice for most postseason games (29) in a career, if he plays Sunday, and he can break Tony Fritsch's record for most consecutive postseason games with a field goal (13), a mark that was set during the 1970s - so long ago that even the NFL's oldest player doesn't remember it.
A win Sunday would send Vinatieri to another Super Bowl and give him a chance to tie Charles Haley for the most individual rings (five).
Teammates are astounded by Vinatieri's feats.
''A lot of guys never make the playoffs,'' said return specialist Josh Cribbs, a 10-year veteran who made his playoff debut Jan. 4. ''For me, this is like a cherry on top of my career - just being in there.
''I've seen him (Vinatieri) play in a lot of games and the Super Bowl, like it's nothing, like it's another day. I guess a guy like that, nothing can faze him,'' Cribbs added.
Perhaps nothing should faze a man who is the great, great grandson of Gen. George Custer's bandmaster, a distant cousin of daredevil Evil Knievel and a guy who has hunted lions and bears.
Age hasn't slowed down Vinatieri, either.
This season, he scored 140 points and became the first player in league history to top 900 points with two different franchises. Vinatieri has missed only two kicks all season - a 46-yard field goal at Tennessee in the regular-season finale and a 44-yarder at Denver last weekend.
And at the start of next year, Vinatieri will need just seven eight points to break Mike Vanderjagt's franchise scoring record (995) and 12 points to top the 1,000-point mark with two different teams.
Not bad for a guy who just wanted to land a spot on the Patriots' roster.
It didn't take long for Boston's hard-care fans to embrace him.
''Back then, I was the underdog trying to find a spot on the team,'' Vinatieri said.
But since the best clutch kicker in league history signed with Indianapolis as a free agent in 2006, Patriots fans have greeted ''Automatic Adam'' with a resounding chorus of boos each time he comes back to Gillette Stadium.
Following last season's divisional-round loss, Vinatieri told a Boston radio station that he was disappointed by the crowd's reaction.
After all, Vinatieri hasn't shed all of his Boston roots. He still appreciates a cup of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, he still likes the Red Sox and he still enjoys seeing some old friends at Gillette Stadium.
It might be his final chance.
With the Colts hosting New England during the 2015 regular season and no assurance Indy (13-5) will bring back a 44-year-old kicker in 2016, after his current two-year deal expires, Sunday's game could be Vinatieri's Foxborough farewell.
''I won't reminisce,'' he said. ''It will be business as usual.''
He'd just like to finish it in his trademark style - with another postgame celebration in New England.
'''It's a special thing to be in the league for a long time, to play with franchises that win in the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs,'' Vinatieri said, explaining the secret to his success. ''You try to focus on the job at hand and not the grandness of it all.''
Notes: Indianapolis put backup linebacker Josh McNary on the commissioner's exempt list Thursday, less than 24 hours after prosecutors filed three criminal charges including rape against him. ... Three Colts players appeared on the injury report. Cornerbacks Vontae Davis (knee) and Greg Toler (groin) were both limited participants at practice. Linebacker Erik Walden (knee) was a full participant. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson also returned to practice Thursday after getting some extra rest Wednesday. All four starters are expected to play Sunday, coach Chuck Pagano said.
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