INDIANAPOLIS – Since moving to Indianapolis, the Colts have played in the AFC Championship game on four different occasions.
They will try and make their fifth appearance with a win in New England on Saturday night.
Just eight NFL teams remain alive in the 2014 postseason and Colts veterans all around value the opportunity that is waiting in Foxborough.
Watching a 320-Poound Man Dance--Chuck Pagano wasn’t used to seeing a 6-4, 320-pound man act like this.
Pagano knew what Redding had endured through eight NFL seasons, and over 100 games, to finally play a meaningful contest in the month of January.
“(Redding) was like a kid in the candy store jumping around in the locker room,” Pagano, the then Ravens defensive assistant, recalls.
“Everybody was wondering what was wrong with this grown man. But it was his first trip. It is so hard to get to this point. It is so hard to make the playoffs and then advance, that he’s got, obviously, a great appreciation for where we’re at and where this team’s at and the opportunity that we all have.”
No one in the Colts locker room waited longer to experience the playoffs then Redding, but that has just made him even more appreciative of opportunities like the one he’s currently in.
“I couldn’t sniff the playoffs. Couldn’t even think about it. Being able to say I’ve been in the playoffs now for the last four years, it’s amazing,” Redding says.
“A long journey for myself, but it’s an appreciation whether you’re a rookie or an 11-year vet. To be in the playoffs is something special. It’s something hard to do. It’s very hard to win in this league consistently week in and week out. All the things that we’ve done have got us to this point. We’re happy, but we’re not satisfied. There is still work to be done.”
In experiencing the playoffs 14 times in his 18 NFL seasons, Vinatieri has seen virtually everything the postseason can offer.
Vinatieri doesn’t let an interview go by without reinforcing how you never take for granted a chance to play this late into the season.
The 41-year old Vinatieri recalls watching 10-year vets overcome with emotion prior to their first playoff game.
“I literally watched grown men cry because they got an opportunity to play in the playoffs, not because they lost, because they had an opportunity just to get in it,” Vinatieri says.
“Football is fun. They’re a lot of great things that gives us so many different blessings in life but the playoffs are earned and they are hard to come by.
There isn’t a more decorated kicker in NFL postseason history than Vinatieri.
But on this frigid day in Indianapolis, the future Hall of Fame kicker wasn’t thinking about his plethora of NFL records.
Instead, he was staring at his locker, hoping that the cleats scattered inside of it will remain in there for another few weeks.
“The worst feeling is cleaning your locker at the end of the year after a playoff loss,” Vinatieri says.
“That’s one of those things, you never ever want to do. There’s ultimately only one team that’s happy when the season’s over and we still got a chance at that.”
Decorated Postseason Veterans Meet Saturday—Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri have combined for 50 career playoff contests.
As the two near the latter stages of their historic NFL careers, both future Hall of Famers know the opportunity that presents itself on Saturday night.
Brady’s 17 postseason wins are the most in NFL history, yet he hasn’t had the confetti fall on him in nine years.
“It’s incredible to play in this,” Brady said earlier this week. “These are the moments you dream about and you have a chance with eight other teams to be the last team standing. It’s why we work hard. It’s why every guy puts a lot out there. You sacrifice a lot of things. A lot of people would die to be in our positions.
“It’s different than a normal week. There’s no, ‘Hey, we’ll get them tomorrow. We’ll talk about the corrections on Monday.’ You have one opportunity to get it right and that’s all you can ask for as an athlete and the great part is that once that ball is kicked off, none of that other crap matters.”
In the Colts locker room, it’s Vinatieri that garners a crowd come playoff time.
His playoff experience is unmatched across the NFL and, just like Brady, the game’s most clutch kicker doesn’t brush aside these chances.
“You’re naïve at any stage in your career if you take the playoffs for granted,” Vinatieri says. “I think the league average is three, three and a half years in the league. If you look at it that way, even if this is your rookie year, you may only have two or three more years.
“For myself and the other veterans, we know that there might not be a lot more of these so you have to take every advantage of every situation and run with it.”