As Adam Vinatieri enters his 21st NFL season, it's certainly worth looking back on what he's accomplished throughout his career. With four Super Bowl wins, three Pro Bowl appearances and 14 Special Teams Player of the Week awards -- among other accolades -- he's easily one of the most prolific kickers in NFL history.
And as Mike Francesca recounted Monday on New York's WFAN, it's a career that was nearly cut short just as it began. Via ProFootballTalk:
That’s the word from New York sports radio fixture Mike Francessa, who has long been close with former Patriots coach Bill Parcells. Francessa said on the air on Monday that Parcells nearly cut Vinatieri after Week Three of Vinatieri’s rookie season.
Vinatieri missed three field goals in Week Two of his rookie season, and in Week Three he missed his first field goal attempt and an extra point attempt. And so, late in the fourth quarter of a game the Patriots were winning 28-0, Parcells went to Vinatieri on the sideline with a little test to see how much intestinal fortitude he had: Parcells told Vinatieri that he was going to go into the game to attempt a 31-yard field goal with his job on the line. If Vinatieri missed, Parcells told him, he was getting cut. Vinatieri made the kick.
“I’ve had it with that kicker,” Parcells said, according to Francessa. “If he had missed it I would have cut him. And I told him, ‘You better make this kick’ before I sent him out there. And he made the kick, and he gained confidence little by little, and look who he became."
While the NFL isn't a game of "ifs" and "buts," it's still hard to imagine what could have happened if Vinatieri shanked that 31-yard kick. Not only were his 1,158 points the most in Patriots franchise history at one point(since topped by Stephen Gostkowski in 2014), His clutch kicks were nothing short of instrumental in bringing three Super bowl titles to Foxborough, and he would later be named to the Patriots' All-1990s team, All-2000s Team and 50th Anniversary teams.
The 43-year-old Vinatieri's place is firmly cemented in Pats and NFL lore. It's hard to believe that it was all just one 31-yard kick away from never happening.
Follow Rob Riches on Twitter @Riches61