INDIANAPOLIS –Adam Vinatieri has seen a lot in his lengthy NFL career, but he enters the 2017 season practically in uncharted territory.
That's because for the first time since 2011, the Indianapolis Colts will be without two-thirds of their "Fourth Down Army," after punter Pat McAfee announced his surprise retirement following the 2016 season, followed by the team's decision to release long snapper Matt Overton in May.
The task now for Vinatieri entering training camp later this week is to make sure his new punter, long snapper and him are all on the same page before the team's Week 1 game on the road against the Los Angeles Rams.
For Colts special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, the expectations stay the same, however.
"Adam, Pat, Matt, they established this a long time ago that when you walk into that office you're a Pro Bowler," McMahon says of his special teams room. "Those (new) guys want to come in and want to perfect that. There's no question the standards are set high. To me, it's one of those things where you can mess around trying to be good or want to be great. We want to be great."
So let's take a close look at the state of the Colts' special teamers heading into camp:
— Adam VinatieriNOTABLE ADDITIONS:
— Thomas Hennessy
— Jeff LockeNOTABLE CAMP BATTLES:
— NoneNOTABLE LOSSES:
— Pat McAfee (retired)
— Matt Overton (released)
It's unrealistic to expect anyone to come in and completely replicate Pat McAfee's value as a punter, holder and team leader, but Jeff Locke is certainly going to try.
The differences between McAfee and Locke begin at their kicking legs, as Locke is a lefty and puts a completely different spin on the ball.
With the Colts, Locke will also be expected to handle both punting and kickoff duties after just being a punter the last few seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
"These last four years in Minnesota not doing it all the time, I kept it up in the offseasons knowing that this day might come," Locke said last week. "I love doing it. It's definitely a different swing to maintain. It's a little more stress on the body, also."
Thomas Hennessy, meanwhile, also has a pretty daunting task of being the replacement for the always-dependable Overton. But McMahon said the rookie has all the tools needed to succeed at the position for the Colts.
"You see his size, his velocity, his accuracy, you see his ability to protect," McMahon said of Hennessy.
Locke and Hennessy have no better example to follow each day than Vinatieri, who is preparing for his 22nd year in the league in 2017, and continues his assault on the record books.
Last season, he set the league's all-time record for consecutive made field goals, and he also has the league's main all-time kicking records in site: he's 35 field goals shy of tying Morten Andersen for the most in NFL history, while his 2,378 points is 166 points behind Andersen on that all-time list.
The returner position, meanwhile, appears set to be a competition primarily between two young receivers: Quan Bray and Chester Rogers.
Bray had one of the better performances in the league as a returner the second half of the 2015 season, but missed most of the 2016 season with an ankle injury. In his place was Rogers at punt returner, who fought off some early struggles to end with a solid performance overall.
Also, look for a large number of players to be in the mix for the team's kickoff returner positions behind Bray.
2017 Colts Training Camp Previews:
• Offensive Line
• Defensive Line
• Running Backs
• Inside Linebackers
• Tight Ends
• Outside Linebackers
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