Colts to Arrive in Miami Monday Afternoon with a Roster of Super Bowl Experience
INDIANAPOLIS – Adam Vinatieri spoke with the reasoned voice of experience.
Vinatieri, the Colts' 14-year veteran kicker and a veteran of five Super Bowls, spoke to teammates last week as the Colts began preparing for Super Bowl XLIV. He spoke about approach, and about remembering a basic premise.
And Vinatieri said there was something significant about the speech:
That a lot of the players in the room had heard it before.
Vinatieri, who played in four Super Bowls with New England from 1996-2004, gave a similar speech in early 2007, as the Colts prepared to play Chicago in the Super Bowl XLI. And while Vinatieri said that many Colts players having heard it already guarantees nothing, he and other Colts veterans say having played in the game before certainly won't hurt this week.
"I don't want to say it's easy, because it's the same distractions," Vinatieri said as the AFC Champion Colts (16-2) prepared to play the NFC Champion Saints (15-3) in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium Sunday.
"It's the same thing, but the nice thing is there are guys who have gone through it before, so they know what to expect. They know how the week kind of pans out. They know, 'Oh, my gosh, the game is longer, and there's more timeouts. There's more hoopla.'
"You can maybe adjust it a little bit, and say, 'Yeah, you might have a slight advantage,' but the team that goes out and plays better is the team that's going to win.''
Vinatieri, who likely won't play this weekend, is one of 19 players on the Colts' active roster who played in the Colts' Super Bowl XLI over Chicago. Quarterback Peyton Manning, center Jeff Saturday, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Dwight Freeney and other key players did, too.
When the Colts arrive, those players and other veterans will enter relatively familiar surroundings. Not only is the Super Bowl in the same stadium as their last appearance, but their team hotel and their Super Bowl week practice facility is the same as three years ago, too.
"You don't have that anxiety," Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson said. "You know you're going to approach it when we finally land, when we get to the hotel. We know how Media Day's going to be. We know how our schedule's going to be different. It takes away the uncertainty."
The 19 players who remain from the '06 team also know what it is to go through Super Bowl Media Day, as well as to meet the media twice more on Wednesday and Thursday, then practice at odd times – and to do so in surroundings that aren't at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center in Indianapolis.
Super Bowl Week is about that – the unfamiliar, the chaotic.
It's also about handling that chaos, and if there's any small advantage to this being the Colts' second Super Bowl appearance in four seasons, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said that may be it.
"I think it helps you somewhat because it reduces the anxiety level and the unknown," Caldwell said. "Our guys have been there before, some of them, there are 25 (including injured reserve players) or so that are still with the franchise and have gone through it. So, there is aion of your team that has some familiarity, but I don't think it gives you any great advantages.
"It doesn't guarantee you anything. Nevertheless, there may be a small comfort level."
Dallas Clark, a fourth-year veteran during the run to Super Bowl XLI, said what experience doesn't mean in the Colts' case is anything close to nonchalance. The Colts have been to the Super Bowl twice, and they were the most successful regular-season team of the 2000s, but Clark said seven postseason losses mean this is a week to be savored and very definitely not taken for granted.
"Going to it once is unforgettable, and all that, but it's nothing that you get used to," Clark said. "It's going to be phenomenal, because each experience is different. This is a new team. This is a different team. It's a different team we're playing for and we've gone through different things this year.
"It's the same city, same hotel, but all of the experiences are going to brand new. All of the experiences are going to be special. It's something you're going to treasure forever. This is what you play for.
"I don't think guys forget that. I think when you're down there, you try to be a big 'ole sponge and soak up as much as you can."
Said defensive end Robert Mathis, "You can go to six Super Bowls like Vinatieri has, and it never gets old."
But while players such as Mathis and defensive end Raheem Brock will savor the moment, Mathis said he certainly feels more comfortable knowing what will happen after the Colts arrive in Miami this afternoon.
"It helps a lot, because you won't go down there and get wide-eyed or side-tracked or anything," Mathis said. "You know what to do and what not to do."
Said Brock, "We won't be in awe of anything going on down there. I try to talk to the young guys and tell them to be ready, but regardless, they're still not going to be ready. It's their first Super Bowl. They'll be excited. They'll be pumped up.'
That feeling of being as ready as they can possibly be for the biggest game of their lives is what the Colts were able to control in 2006, Vinatieri said, and as with any Super Bowl appearance, controlling it again Sunday will be critical.
"We did a pretty good job (in 2007) in that we just focused in on football," Vinatieri said. "Preparation is the key in a game like this – knowing your opponent better than they know you and knowing every tendency they have. If you can devote your time to that and not distract it away to something else, you have an advantage. . . .
"At the end of this thing, it's two teams playing against each other. The lights are brighter. The people are louder. The commotion is greater. But at the end of the day, it's just a football game with two teams. The team that kind of minimizes all of the craziness, that can focus in on what it needs to do . . . the team that gets the distractions out of the way and focuses on the game plan is the team that definitely has a distinct advantage."