Some Help for "Old Man" Adam
- ***** From the Herald:Vinatieri will get a boot camp boost
By Michael Felger/ NFL Notes
Sunday, May 30, 2004Adam Vinatieri is once again a reigning Super Bowl hero. He is perhaps the best big-game kicker of his generation. Those are the facts.But here's another one: Statistically speaking, the 2003 season was his worst as a professional.Vinatieri converted 25-of-34 field goal attempts, which represented his most misses (nine) and lowest percentage (73.5) since he fought his way onto Bill Parcells' roster as a rookie in 1996. And while Vinatieri was once again Mr. Clutch against Carolina, he actually had a poor game in Super Bowl XXXVIII, missing one kick from 31 yards and having a 36-yarder blocked at the line.Some of Vinatieri's problems were the result of simple wear and tear. In late November, he was hitting balls in practice when his back locked up, and it never really unlocked until the season was over. The injury didn't require surgery this spring, but it did result in Vinatieri re-evaluating his approach on non-game days.In short, Vinatieri will get some relief this year. As the only kicker in camp the last two seasons, Vinatieri handled virtually every practice kick in training camp and beyond. This year, when the Pats go to their seemingly endless kickoff sessions, Vinatieri will be spelled by rookie free agent Cody Scates and punter Josh Miller. Vinatieri has also worked to build up the back muscles that broke down last year. He said he kicked pain-free at the team's recent ``passing'' camp, where he also worked with new holder Miller for the first time.``It feels pretty good. We've done some things to strengthen it,'' Vinatieri said. ``I'm not old (31). But I am getting older. When you're younger you get out to practice and you're like, `Stretching? I don't need to stretch!' But when you get on in years you realize you can't continue to do things the same way.``Hopefully having those guys (handle kickoffs in practice) will take some of the strain off,'' he added. ``Then I can just focus on the field goals and get those numbers up.''Ah, the numbers. They are particularly important to Vinatieri this year because his contract is set to expire after the season. Agent Neil Cornrich and the Pats have had some preliminary talks regarding a new deal, but money figures haven't been broached. Considering top kickers make only between $1-2 million annually (Vinatieri will be the highest-paid kicker in the NFL in 2004 with a base salary of $1.4 million), it's hard to imagine the Pats not stepping up and paying the going rate for such a colossally important player.Coach Bill Belichick [news] readily acknowledges that he has the best pressure kicker in the NFL, and the Super Bowl was just another example of it. While Carolina counterpart John Kasay lost his nerve and sent a late kickoff out of bounds, Vinatieri calmly drilled a 41-yarder to give the Pats the title. Never mind that Vinatieri had missed four of his previous six kicks at Houston's Reliant Stadium (he went 2-for-4 during a November game against the Texans). There wasn't much doubt when he lined up for the game-winner.Vinatieri pulled off a similar feat three weeks before when he willed a 46-yarder over the crossbar with four minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Pats' playoff win over Tennessee in Foxboro. Again, never mind the deep freeze (4 degrees at kickoff) and that Vinatieri's back was bothering him. Never mind that in the first half he missed badly from a spot 2 yards closer than his eventual game-winner. The tougher the situation, the better Vinatieri became.Next to that, statistics mean nothing.Vinatieri's first choice is to remain with the Pats. If it doesn't work out, then he would welcome a relocation to a domed or warm-weather team. Such a move would surely make life easier on Vinatieri as he heads into his mid-30s.
``I love this team, this organization and the guys on the team,'' said Vinatieri. ``If I can stay here longer, that's what I want to do. Not many guys get to finish their whole career with one team. There are still some things I want to accomplish here.''Vinatieri, with 917 points, remains in second place behind Gino Cappelletti (1,130) on the Pats' all-time scoring list. Vinatieri will need at least two more seasons in a Pats uniform to reach that mark. And then there's the matter of the Hall of Fame. As it stands now, John Hannah is the only career Patriot enshrined in Canton, Ohio.Everyone would like to see Vinatieri join him there.***** Adam may need a little relief from all that kicking, but count me among those who have full confidence that he has several more years of quality performance in that leg. He will most certainly replace Gino as the Pats all-time top scorer.Brady looks strongWord from the recently completed veteran passing camp was that quarterback Tom Brady [news] threw the ball well while taking a regular turn. Brady has apparently suffered no setbacks following his February shoulder procedure. . . .***** So we won't be starting Davey on September 9?Only three big-name players were said to be absent from the camp, which wasn't mandatory: Ty Law [news], Rodney Harrison [news] and Willie McGinest [news]. The Pats' full-team, mandatory camp runs June 10-12. Law is expected to attend, but if he doesn't it won't affect the $1 million roster bonus he is due for reporting to training camp in July.***** No news of note in any of that, IMO. Early camps mean nothing to any of these 3.Return to LA-LA landAt the NFL owners meetings in March, Robert Kraft said one of the league's top priorities should be finalizing a new stadium project in Los Angeles. After that, said Kraft, getting a team back into the nation's No. 2 media market would take care of itself.That process continued to play itself out last week, as commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he wants a stadium deal in place by next spring and a team back in LA by 2008. Kraft will help the league sift through the proposals, with the preferred site being Carson City, Calif. The only problem is that local politicians are resisting.``Next to Boston, it's probably the toughest place in the country to get something like this done,'' said one ownership source.As for who that tenant will be, count on a relocated franchise as opposed to an expansion team. Judging by the words of Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay, the Colts could be first in line.``Since we have been there we've seen the corporate world going backwards, losing some key corporations,'' said Irsay, whose father left Baltimore in 1984.``As we're looking at the studies, it's really questionable if a new stadium (in Indianapolis) can solve the dilemma . . . it doesn't seem like there's much ability to gain a lot more.''***** The only affect this has on me is to reinforce my gratitude for DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket. A team in LA will mean less network coverage of the NFL, and reduced likelihood of seeing Pats games on local TV.***** The negative that I anticipate for LA fans is that the most likely site is actually the Rose Bowl, where traffic and parking for games is a nightmare. The Carson site they mention is pollution city, with the odiferous fumes of oil refineries filling the air. The Coliseum, another strong contender, has it's ancient structure, and a "less than desireable" neighborhood to contend with. None of the 3 sites is ideal. But there's too much money involved for this not to happen.George
** Belichick IS NFL Coach of the Year! **
** & The Patriots dynasty has begun! **