FOXBORO -- Is Adam Vinatieri a Hall of Famer?
As the former Patriots kicker returns to Foxboro in his 17th NFL season, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked the question. And even though Belichick admitted to not really understand the Hall of Fame criteria, he did seem like he would put Vinatieri into the Hall if the choice was his.
"He's certainly one of the greatest kickers I've ever seen, since I've been in the league," said Belichick. "The longevity, the production, the performance of championships in big games. What more could he do? You know, what more could he do? Go out there and play wide receiver and catch a bunch of passes? What more could he do?"
Vinatieri spent 10 seasons with the Patriots and won three Super Bowls. Now with Indianapolis, he enters Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium having hit the most 50-plus yard field goals in a season in his career, with three through nine games.
So he's still got it.
"When Adam was here -- and I'm sure it's the same in Indianapolis -- he trained hard, worked hard, kept himself in good condition, had good overall strength, and certainly mental toughness and concentration, and all those things, technique," said Belichick. "He kicked the ball straight. I haven't seen any of that change too much. He might have lost a little bit of range, but, he's still making 50-yard kicks. I'm sure they're confident when they send him out there. And I can understand that."
As much as Belichick praised Vinatieri on Friday, he also made sure he expressed his confidence in his current kicker and Vinatier's replacement since he left: Stephen Gostkowski.
"Steve works hard, and he's been real consistent for us, since the first year he got here," said Belichick. "He's really pretty much the same guy every day. He doesn't get too up or too down. He's made a lot of big kicks for us. Not perfect, but he hasn't been too high in the highs or too low on the lows. He's been very consistent with his work ethic, his discipline, his ability to adapt to different snappers and holders over the course of his career. It's something you can't control as a kicker, but you have to work with. And he's done a good job of that. He hasn't let it affect him. What he controls is just his preparation."