INDIANAPOLIS - There are as many grey hairs in Adam Vinatieri’s beard as there are brown. The same for his slightly receeding hairline. But the Vinatieri who booted game-winning field goals for the Patriots is now 42 years old, deep in the second phase of his career, one that includes another Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts. For those counting at home, that makes four in what should most certainly be a Hall of Fame career.
Very few of Vinatieri’s old Patriots teammates are still playing, not just in Foxboro, but period. However, Tom Brady remains a constant, just as Vinatieri does. Vinatieri’s locker used to be just a few down from Brady’s. He knows as well as anyone how Brady’s mind works, though he wasn’t willing to put himself in the quarterback’s shoes after an offseason of unrest caused, in part, by the Colts.
“I don’t want to speak for Tom,” said Vinatieri. “I don’t know what’s in his mind right now. I’m sure he’s preparing like he always does. He’s a professional. One of the best professionals out there as far as getting ready to play and getting his team ready to go. So I’m sure he’ll be ready to play.”
But is there more to it than that for Brady, for the Patriots?
“Does this game hold more meaning?” Vinatieri asked. “Like I said, I’m not speaking for anybody else. I know for us, it’s a good game. Whenever you play a team like the Patriots, it’s a big game. They’re a good team, but it’s one of 16 and they all count as one of 16 so is it any more or any less important? Absolutely not. It’s the next game...”
The Patriots have dominated this “rivalry,” with wins of 38, 22, 21 and 35 points in their past four meetings. Now, there’s something different at play for this one, at least in the eyes of fans and media alike publicly, and privately, in the minds of some of those who live in that Pats locker room. Yes, all who “Believe in Brady” are praying for a beatdown of epic proportions Sunday night, one that leaves the Colts neutered. Vinatieri obviously has no desire to see that, but knows how Bill Belichick can operate.
“I remember coach Bobby Bowden 15 years ago when he was at Florida State, I remember him saying my job is to score to points, it’s the other team’s job to stop us from scoring points,” he said. “Why would I expect anything less from them, or from us, or from any other team for that matter? We try to score as many points as we can, and I’m sure they’ll try to do the same. We‘ll see how it all pans out, how it is at the end of game.”
Considering the level the Pats are playing at right now and how difficult it has been for the Colts to get their season turned in a positive direction - don’t let the three straight wins fool you - Vinatieri is sure it will take a much better performance from his team Sunday night, or else, well, you know...
“This locker room knows how great of a team the Patriots are,” he said. “They’re the defending world champs, undefeated and playing some of the best football of anybody. We know what we’re getting ourselves into as far as going out there, needing to execute, play well, play error free. So, we expect it to be a fun game.”
Depends on what you consider fun.