After Difficult 2009 Season, Colts Kicker Adam Vinatieri Feels Good Entering 2010
INDIANAPOLIS – Adam Vinatieri is excited about football. Really, really excited.
And even though he's in his 15th NFL season, a veteran with six Super Bowl appearances and four rings – yes, he said, that's a pretty cool feeling.
Vinatieri, the Colts' kicker who missed much of last season with injuries, said following Thursday's preseason finale he feels ready for the season and most imantly, said he feels he had a solid opportunity to prepare the last four weeks.
That's a different feeling than he had last season.
And that's a good feeling, he said.
"Feeling healthy – you take that for granted," Vinatieri said recently as the Colts (14-2 last season) began preparing to play the Houston Texans (9-7) in the 2010 regular-season opener at Reliant Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I have (taken granted being healthy) all of my career until all of a sudden, it's not quite that way."
And while Vinatieri said he has enjoyed his 15th NFL season thus far, the preseason was less about enjoying and very much about preparing.
Vinatieri had limited opportunities to do so early in the preseason, but he had two first-half field goal attempts in the preseason finale last Thursday against Cincinnati. He converted the first from 23 yards and the second from 36 yards.
He made all four of his field goal attempts in the preseason, including one from 41 yards, and also converted eight of eight extra points.
Most important, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said, was this past Thursday.
"The nice thing is he got an opportunity to kick it Thursday," Caldwell said. "That was good, because up until that time he probably hadn't had the number of kicks that he would like. It worked out well for him, so I do think he feels good. Obviously, he's kicking well.
"We're happy to see him back and feeling good about where he is physically."
Vinatieri said he feels that way, too, primarily because the preparation process for the 2010 season felt far more normal than last off-season.
"Obviously, preseason is made for getting some reps and getting polished for the season," Vinatieri said. "I didn't get quite as many reps as I would have liked to have gotten along the way, but everything felt good. We have some good chemistry right now. I think we're in good shape."
Whereas Vinatieri said last off-season there were constant worries, this off-season felt more like most of the first 13.
"This year was smooth – kind of the way it's supposed to be," Vinatieri said. "I'm feeling good and kicking all right. I'm happy – very happy – to be feeling the way I'm feeling."
Vinatieri said there's more to how he feels this preseason than putting last season behind him. With a decade and a half experience kicking professionally, he said he knows far more about how to prepare correctly than he did when he was younger.
Vinatieri, who kicked 10 seasons – 1996-2005 – with the New England Patriots, said while he probably over-prepared and over-kicked at times when he was younger, now the idea is to prepare by kicking smarter, not more often.
"I probably kick a little bit less," Vinatieri said. "Definitely in camp, but even in the games I try not to take as many reps as I used to. I notice a lot of young guys – myself included when I was young – would kick all the time – 'bam, bam, bam into the net.' You sit back afterward and say, 'Man, I'm sore. Why?' It's like, 'Well, you kicked 250 balls, dummy.
"Now, it's like I try to kick what I need, but you don't need to over do it, either."
Vinatieri paused and smiled.
"I'm starting to figure that out," the player who twice – following the 2001 and 2003 seasons – kicked game-winning field goals in the final seconds of Super Bowls said.
"It's a work in progress, but if I learned anything from watching (former Baltimore Ravens and Colts kicker) Matt (Stover) or Morten Andersen it's that they're real particular about how many times you kick the ball, and you don't need to kick more than you need to.
"Obviously, if you're working on stuff, you do more or you do some mental reps. You visualize a little more and that saves wear and tear on your body, too. It was a pretty productive preseason."
Vinatieri said this past off-season that he hopes to play for the foreseeable future, and said he believes he can do so at a high level.
And that, he said, is something about which to get excited. Really, really excited.
"Every day is a good day so far," Vinatieri said. "But you have to be smart, too. I'm making sure I'm getting massages and getting my legs back and stuff. Anybody can get something at an inopportune time, but I'm feeling happy and feeling good."