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Bill Belichick on Adam Vinatieri: ‘A Hall of Fame kicker if there ever was one’

01.07.14 at 12:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The debate goes on every Saturday before the Super Bowl. Should kickers be considered for the Hall of Fame? Jan Stenerud is the only pure placekicker enshrined in Canton while Lou Groza and George Blanda made it with the help of their other positions. Groza was a dominating offensive tackle while Blanda was a quarterback.

Well, if the writers ask Bill Belichick, he has a gold standard for the position – Adam Vinatieri.

The Patriots coach was asked on a conference call with Indianapolis writers Tuesday if he is surprised the 41-year-old Vinatieri is performing so well so late in his career.

‘€œNot really. I think Adam, when he was here, trained very hard in the offseason, was one of our hardest workers,” Belichick said. “He worked out with all the other position players and he was never really looked at as a kicker in terms of his offseason program and what he did as far as training, that kind of thing. He was a very well-conditioned athlete. Mentally, he’€™s as tough and as consistent as they come. I can’€™t think of anybody, certainly no other kicker, that I’€™ve coached that I would put ahead of him in terms of mental toughness, concentration, focus, professionalism, all of those things.

“He just did his job as well as he could possibly do it every day that I was here. I was here in ‘€™96 when he came in as a rookie and then as the head coach when I came back. I have the utmost respect for Adam and the way he approaches his job, the way he does his job. It really seems like every year, you turn on the film and he’€™s making 50-yard field goals and kicking them right down the middle and doing the same things that he did 17, 18 years ago, however long it’€™s been since ‘€™96. He’€™s a great player and a Hall of Fame kicker if there ever was one.’€

Here is the rest of Belichick’s conference call with reporters on Tuesday:

What’€™s your reaction to the Colts’€™ comeback against Kansas City?
‘€œReally impressive. I thought they showed a lot of toughness, resiliency, as they have all year. Made plays in all phases of the game. Threw the ball, ran the ball, played good defense. Had a lot of stops in the second half, so it was obviously a real solid performance. Gutty effort.’€

The way Andrew Luck played, does anything surprise you anymore about this guy in just his second season?
‘€œNo, a really complete player. Great long-ball thrower. Very accurate. Has a good touch on short, intermediate passes. Reads defenses well. Does a good job checking plays at the line of scrimmage and making some of those adjustments. Active in the pocket. Hard guy to tackle. Hard guy to bring down. Good feet. Can scramble and run. Can scramble and buy time to throw. Has good vision down the field. Makes good decisions. There’€™s not really any weaknesses to his game.’€

How have you seen the way the Colts have used T.Y. Hilton since Reggie Wayne‘€™s been out?
‘€œHe’€™s obviously had a real productive season. He’€™s pretty dangerous on everything. He’€™s caught long passes, intermediate passes, short catch-and-run plays. He’€™s very quick, fast, explosive, good with the ball in his hands. Runs good routes. Hard guy to tackle. So he can beat you in a lot of different ways.’€

They move him around a lot in the formation, does that make it difficult to locate him or not?
‘€œWell, you obviously have to be aware of where he is. But that’€™s what they do. There’€™s a lot of teams that do that with players like that.’€

What are your impressions of Pep Hamilton?
‘€œThey’€™ve had a variety of success in their offense doing a number of different things. They’€™ve been no-huddle. They’€™ve been three receivers and a tight end personnel like they were against Kansas City. In other games at other times, they’€™ve used bigger people, two tight ends, two backs, extra linemen, and been productive running the ball and throwing play-action passes, downfield throws. They’€™ve shown that they can be balanced. They’€™ve shown that they can run the ball. They’€™ve shown that they can throw it when they have to throw it. He does a good job of misdirection. Again, downfield-type plays, whether they’€™re just deep balls or some kind of designed play to free somebody up down the field. They execute very well. They don’€™t turn the ball over much. Don’€™t get many penalties. Don’€™t have many negative plays. They’€™re not in a lot of long-yardage situations. They’€™re a physical running team. They also have good balance in the passing game. He’€™s done a real good job with the offense and they can attack you and hurt you in a lot of different ways.’€

I realize you play who you play, but it’€™s always interesting when the Colts and Patriots get together. Or do you think that’€™s just overblown?
‘€œWe’€™ve seen a lot of the Colts through the years. They were formerly a division team but it seems like they’€™ve never really left the division. One way or another we’€™ve kind of gotten them every year. We’€™re playing them again next year. It’€™s been a good rivalry. There have been a lot of real competitive games. But none of that really matters, it’€™s all in the past. Right now it’€™s just the game Saturday night. We both have a good football team. They’€™ve played well all year. They’€™re tough. They’€™re resilient. Strong in all three phases of the game. So we know it will be a big challenge for us.’€

How have you seen Robert Mathis progress throughout his years and take his game to a new level now without Dwight Freeney?
‘€œOh yeah, he’€™s an outstanding player, one of the most disruptive players in the league. Not only does he hit the quarterback a lot, but he causes the turnover, game-changing plays. Very good at stripping the ball from the quarterback. He’€™s also hit the quarterback a number of times, which has caused interceptions or tipped balls as part of the rush, that kind of thing. So he’€™s a very disruptive guy. Quickness, tremendous motor. Has great speed, but he has great effort in his pursuit, chase. And is able to avoid blockers and penetrate blocking schemes to either create negative plays in the backfield or disrupt the play so somebody else can make the tackle for a loss. They move him around, but he’€™s a guy you got to be aware of every time the ball’€™s snapped. You have to do a good job on him or he can absolutely ruin a game.’€

Can you talk about what Deion Branch brought to the Patriots through his years there?
‘€œYeah, Deion had a great career here. I think he was here for seven years or north thereof. Very smart, professional player. Great leader. One of the top guys we’€™ve had here in terms of off the field work ethic, leadership, intelligence, preparation, all those things. He had some very productive seasons here. He’€™s a tremendous person. He’€™s had a great career.’€

Both you and the Colts have lost over a dozen players to injuries. Does this just go to show that this is a trip of attrition, you just have to find ways and people to get it done?

‘€œWell, I think that’€™s pretty much the way it always is in the NFL. You look at every year and at the end of the year, you always see a lot of guys end up on the Injured Reserve list at the end of the season and teams bring guys up from their practice squad and all that. We’€™ve done it the last couple weeks, the Colts have done it, but I think just about every team in the league has done the same thing in the last couple weeks in the season, or even more than that, I’€™d say going back to probably the end of November. It’€™s a long year. It’€™s something that you have to deal with, unfortunately, during the season. But it pretty much happens to everybody. That’€™s why depth’€™s important and developing young players is important because you have to be ready to adjust to those circumstances when they occur.’€

Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
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