When the New England Patriots welcome the Indianapolis Colts to Foxborough Thursday night, it will mark kicker Adam Vinatieri’s sixth trip back to visit the team that originally signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1996.
In what has become an illustrious 23 year career in the NFL, for many Patriots fans, its hard to believe that Vinatieri has now played more seasons (13) in Indianapolis than in New England (10).
Just last week, Vinatieri set the NFL’s all time record for field goals with 566, surpassing Hall of Famer Morten Andersen with 565.
In terms of longevity, on the same day Vinatieri also surpassed George Blanda for fourth all time on the games played list with 341, Blanda retired at age 48, Vinatieri is 45.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick doesn’t enjoy talking about the past, but made an exception during his Tuesday conference call when an Indianapolis reporter asked him to discuss what impressed him most about Vinatieri.
Belichick chose to talk about Vinatieri’s game tying kick during the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff against the Oakland Raiders, known to many as the “Tuck Rule Game” or in New England, “The Snow Bowl”.
“I would say it was by far the greatest kick I have ever seen, The conditions were very difficult. There were probably three to four inches of snow on the ground. It was a soft snow that kind of didn’t go away. I mean, there was no way to get around it. The magnitude of the kick was significant. It’s got to be the greatest kick of all time, certainly that I’ve seen.”
Belichick then went into complementing Vinatieri and looked back upon his days coaching him.
“Adam is a great player. He was a great player here and has been a great player for the Colts, great person. He works hard. He certainly doesn’t fit the classic profile for a kicker. He is more of a football player. He’s physically and mentally tough. When he was here, he trained and worked out with all the players. There was no special program for him as a kicker or anything like that. He embraced that. He had a great relationship with his teammates because of the way he worked, how competitive and mentally and physically tough he was and how he was willing to help out in other areas of the team – scout team and things like that. Whatever the team needed he was always great about that. He was a clutch, dependable player in his role. So, you can’t ask for much more than that. He has had a fabulous career.”
Belichick concluded his discussion by stating his opinion on where Vinatieri ranks all time among kickers.
“Certainly, in my opinion, the greatest kicker in the game. Not just for his longevity and production but again, the magnitude of some of the kicks that he made and the difficulty – particularly the one that you mentioned.
But there were many besides that – the kick in the Super Bowl and the kick in the Carolina Super Bowl. So, I mean there were just big games after big games that we couldn’t – back in 2001, it seemed like every game came down to the last possession or the last kick. Every point was critical. Those games we won in 2001 and 2003 – especially in the early part of the year in 2003 – were all close games and tough ones. Adam came through for us with some enormous kicks.
Congratulations to him and to the great career that he has and honestly it doesn’t seem like there is much sign of him slowing down. The ball continues to go right in the middle of the uprights. It never curves. It doesn’t hook. It just goes straight down the middle. So he just has an unbelievable level of consistency.”
Belichick coached Vinatieri from 2001-2005, he signed with the Colts in free agency before the 2006 season.
Earlier this season Vinatieri expressed that has no plans to retire anytime soon.