Too Early to Know Wind's Effect in New Stadium, Vinatieri and Smith Say
INDIANAPOLIS – Adam Vinatieri said no question it will be a change.
But just how much different it will be kicking a football in Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts' 13-year veteran kicker said only time will tell.
Vinatieri, who worked out at the new, retractable-roof stadium in downtown Indianapolis with his teammates on Tuesday, said the new stadium unquestionably will provide challenges the Colts' former stadium – the RCA Dome – did not.
What those challenges will be he said he doesn't yet know.
"Obviously, this stadium is a unique thing," Vinatieri said Thursday as the Colts (1-2 in the preseason) prepared to play the Buffalo Bills (1-1) in a preseason at Lucas Oil Stadium in a preseason on Sunday at 8 p.m.
"It's a retractable roof, but it also has one open side, so when they open that side up, I'll be able to answer that question a lot more in weeks to come."
Vinatieri and Colts punter Hunter Smith each kicked during the Colts' practice Tuesday, with Smith also saying time will determine the intricacies of the new stadium.
"I really can't tell," Smith said. "It wasn't very windy when we went in there. I think it's probably going to blow in high and circle back low. It will probably blow one direction in the air and one direction on the field. Hopefully, if it's too windy, we'll have it shut.
"One way or the other, I don't think it's going to be a big deal."
Vinatieri, who as a member of the New England Patriots spent his first 10 seasons playing home games outdoors in Foxboro, Mass., said the biggest factor for kickers in the new stadium likely won't be the mechanized retractable roof, but a moveable "window wall."
"It's different from just playing in a dome as far as no wind, no rain, no nothing to worry about," Vinatieri said. "I think the ceiling isn't going to make much of a difference. It's so high up there I don't think it's going to do a lot, but when they opened up the one side, you could feel a breeze in there and it was a pretty calm day.
"Time will tell on that, depending on how much they keep it open and when they do, whatever the weather is. We can get some windy days in Indiana. I think we'll have a little bit of an advantage. Once we're in there more often than other teams we'll be able to hopefully figure it out."
On game days, the Colts must decide whether to open or close the roof 90 minutes before kickoff, something Vinatieri said should help kickers.
"The key is just to figure it out as much as you can," he said. "Maybe one side you get an extra three or four yards distance, so you can kick long that way and not quite as long the other way. Once you know what it is and everybody knows, that's kind of the key – to be able to get out there early enough and see what's going to happen.
"It will take us a while to figure out what the winds are going to do, if there is anything. We'll just go out and get prepared for whatever it is and go from there. I'm sure they'll have it open enough before the game and if they're going to have it open, we'll be able to figure it out soon enough."
In other Colts news, Head Coach Tony Dungy said he doesn't yet know how long safety Bob Sanders or defensive end Dwight Freeney will play Sunday. Each returned to practice on Tuesday after missing the first part of training camp rehabilitating from surgery.
"We'll see how the rest of the week goes, if they continue to improve and continue to go," Dungy said. "Bob is on his normal routine of (practicing) Wednesday and Friday. After Friday's practice, if they're ready go, they certainly won't play as much as the other starters, but we'll get them a full dose."
Dungy said most of the Colts' starters likely will play until at least midway through the third quarter against Buffalo.
Also, Dungy said rookie tight end Tom Santi has begun working, but has not been removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list. Santi underwent surgery to have an bursa sac removed from his knee shortly before training camp.
"He is actually working out and has done some things," Dungy said. "He looks like he's close to ready to go. He's feeling better. He's probably in that same capacity that Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney were in for a couple of weeks, that in their minds they were ready to go and anxious to get started."
Said Santi, "It gets old, standing there watching. Football players are active people. When you're kind of relegated to standing and watching, it's tough. I'm excited to get back."