By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tom Brady may be old for an NFL player, but he's got nothing on Adam Vinatieri.
The rarest of the rare is set to happen in Foxborough on Thursday night. Brady, 41, will take the field as the second-oldest player in the game. The quarterback remains only the fourth-oldest player in the NFL, behind three kickers. Topping the Falcons' Matt Bryant and the Cardinals' Phil Dawson is another kicker, the Patriots' old friend Mr. Vinatieri.
Bill Belichick probably didn't foresee Vinatieri still being active (and as effective as ever) in 2018 when he let him walk to the Colts back in 2006. Yet, Belichick will shake hands with the now-45-year-old kicker while he's wearing not a Hall of Fame jacket, but a full uniform. Still.
Belichick was asked during his Tuesday conference call with the Colts media about Vinatieri, who recently passed Morten Andersen for the most made field goals in league history. Mainly, the coach was asked about his iconic snow kick that sent the 2001 Patriots to the AFC Championship Game. You could say Belichick was happy to talk about that and all of Vinatieri's other big kicks during their time together.
"I would say it was by far the greatest kick I have ever seen," said Belichick on Vinatieri's snow kick. "The conditions were very difficult. There were probably three to four inches of snow on the ground. It was a soft snow that kind of didn’t go away. I mean, there was no way to get around it. The magnitude of the kick was significant. It’s got to be the greatest kick of all time, certainly that I’ve seen. ... Certainly, in my opinion, the greatest kicker in the game. Not just for his longevity and production but again, the magnitude of some of the kicks that he made and the difficulty – particularly the one that you mentioned. But there were many besides that – the kick in the Super Bowl and the kick in the Carolina Super Bowl.
"So, I mean there were just big games after big games that we couldn’t – back in 2001, it seemed like every game came down to the last possession or the last kick. Every point was critical. Those games we won in 2001 and 2003 – especially in the early part of the year in 2003 – were all close games and tough ones. Adam came through for us with some enormous kicks. Congratulations to him and to the great career that he has and honestly it doesn’t seem like there is much sign of him slowing down. The ball continues to go right in the middle of the uprights. It never curves. It doesn’t hook. It just goes straight down the middle. So he just has an unbelievable level of consistency."
Brady is certainly grateful for Vinatieri's ability to consistently finish off his game-ending drives when called upon.
"Yeah, I mean, he’s made a lot of them and I think he broke the record the other day which is pretty incredible," said Brady. "I was lucky enough to be here when he was here early in his career and I thought so much of him. He was just so clutch. He always kind of made the kick and that’s what the mark of a great kicker is and certainly that one. Thinking back a long time ago but it was just – when you see it now, it’s pretty remarkable that he made it and what that meant for this organization. I was just – what a lucky person to be able to be involved in that Snow Bowl and to watch that kick go through."
Vinatieri has now played more seasons in Indy than New England, and has hit field goals at a higher rate as a Colt (86.6 percent) than a Patriot (82.1 percent). But clearly he will always be most remembered for his incredible run of big-time kicks in big-time games for Brady and Belichick.
The amazing thing is, like Brady, Vinatieri still isn't showing many signs of slowing down.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].