GOING STRONG

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who is entering his third season with the Colts and 13th in the NFL, said 13 seasons for a kicker is a vastly different number than other positions. And that's why when people ask how long he'll play he doesn't really have an answer.

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Entering 13th Season, Vinatieri Says He Has Plenty of Seasons Left
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Adam Vinatieri understands the situation.

But just because the Colts' kicker understands why people think as they do doesn't mean he agrees. Far from it.

Yes, Vinatieri is in his 13th NFL season.

And yes, for some positions, that's a very long career.

But Vinatieri, who is entering his third season with the Colts after 10 seasons with the New England Patriots, said 13 seasons for a kicker is a vastly different number than other positions. And that's why when people ask how long he'll play he doesn't really have an answer.

Except to say this:

The end is not close. And it's not close to being on his mind.

"Everybody always says, 'What do you think?''' Vinatieri said at Colts 2008 Training Camp, which continued Thursday with a pair of practices at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

"Once you start getting into your upper thirties, the assumptions of staff or media or whatever is, 'Well, he's starting to get toward the end of his career.' Well, yes and no. There are a lot of kickers who play well into their 40s.

"When they say, 'The end of the career,' they mean another year or two, and I definitely don't feel like I'm anywhere near that yet."

Vinatieri, who signed with the Colts as an unrestricted free agent in the 2006 offseason, long has been one of the NFL's best clutch kickers. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, he has scored at least 100 points in each of his first 12 NFL seasons – the second kicker to do so – and he twice kicked field goals in the final seconds of Super Bowls to give the Patriots World Championships.

Last season, his second with the Colts, he converted 23 of 29 field goals and 49 of 51 extra points, with a long of 39 yards. It was the first season of his career he has not had a field goal of more than 40 yards and his 79.3 field-goal percentage was his first season under 80 percent since 2003.

"It was more of an indication of our offense than anything," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "We kicked a lot of red-zone field goals, but we didn't have to kick many in that 45-yard range. It was one of those fluke things."

Vinatieri said this week he "has enough juice in this leg still," an assessment with which Dungy said he agrees.

"What we have to do is be smart, and as with (the yearly passing repetitions of Colts quarterback) Peyton (Manning), you can't kick as much you did when you were 20 or 21," Dungy said. "As far as being able to do certain things and being able to kick off, Adam kicked off last year at the beginning of the year as well as I've seen him kick.

"There's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be able to do it and be fine and make long field goals and kick off. We just have to be smart."

Said Vinatieri, "I've had a couple of injuries the last couple of years, but I think that's the thing: When I'm healthy, I feel as good as I ever have, and I think I perform as well as ever. It's just a matter of learning how to keep your body in good shape, get rid of the bumps and bruises and try to stay as healthy as you can.

"If that's lifting or running or nutrition or extra time in the training room or minimizing your reps or whatever that may be, finding that happy medium so your body stays healthy is the key."

Vinatieri said his leg feels as strong as ever, and said he feels healthy as the team's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Sunday approaches. He also said he agrees with Dungy that the lack of long field goals was as much a function of opunity as performance.

Vinatieri converted eight of 10 field goals from 30-to-39 yards last year, attempting just two from 40-49 yards and one from more than 50.

"Every year is different," he said. "Some years you have a lot of opportunities. Sometimes you don't. Last year, it seemed we didn't have a single one over 40 yards other than a couple of attempts. One got blocked. Every year is a little different. It all kind of evens itself out in the end, but I've got enough juice in this leg still.

"I can hit some 50-yarders. I wouldn't mind getting a couple of opportunities at that."

And Vinatieri said no matter how people may think, for a kicker 13 is not necessarily a large number, and yes, he said, there's more than enough juice in one of the most clutch legs in the history of the league.

"I can tell it has been a long time," Vinatieri said. "There are a lot of faces that have come and gone and a lot of stories, but every year flies by even faster it seems. I guess you look back at it and say, 'Yeah, I guess the gray hair and that kind of stuff is coming,' but it's amazing how fast things fly by.

"It's funny. It (his kicking leg) gets sore a little bit quicker, but I think other than a stupid little injury here or there the last couple of years, I don't think I've lost anything. In saying that, that comes from offseason workout stuff. You have to put your time in the offseason to make sure you can last through the 16 regular-season games and into the playoffs."

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