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Vinatieri a model of consistency

IN the ever-changing world of the National Football League, former Amsterdam Admirals kicker Adam Vinatieri is a picture of consistency having spent the past six seasons with the New England Patriots.

When you consider the precarious nature of being a kicker in the NFL, it's quite an achievement that Vinatieri has played for the same team for so long.

But Vinatieri has done more than just stick around for the Patriots, he has established himself as one of the most reliable kickers in the league and has never proved more important to New England than during this season's Super Bowl run.

Vinatieri kicked 24 of 30 field goals during the regular season but really turned it up a notch when the playoffs began. His game-tying and game-winning field goals in the snow against the Oakland Raiders were the stuff of legends, and he added a crucial 44-yard field goal against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game.

Those kind of performances should see Vinatieri remain a member of the Patriots for many seasons to come.

"I think there's a lot of movement in this league because that's the nature of the NFL right now with the salary cap and free agency," Vinatieri said. "I have just tried to stay on an even keel and be consistent no matter what the rest of the team does."

Like so many others in the NFL, Vinatieri's professional football career began with a spell in the NFL Europe League. He starred for the Amsterdam Admirals in 1996, kicking 9 of 10 field goals and 4 PATs, earning All-NFL Europe League honors in the process.

"NFL Europe helped me quite a bit," Vinatieri said. "It was a situation where I came out of college and spent the first few months of my career over in Europe.

"NFL Europe gave me that game experience and allowed me to show what I could do on the professional level. It was a great stepping stone for me."

Vinatieri was pleased to learn he was one of 14 NFL Europe League veterans on the Super Bowl XXXVI rosters - but he wasn't surprised.

"There's a lot of great players that come through the NFL Europe League," he said. "There's a lot of players in the NFL right now who have come from NFL Europe and gone on to do real well for themselves in this league."

Vinatieri is certainly one of the NFL Europe League's success stories and he hopes to become even more successful by kicking the winning field goal in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

"I have to admit I've dreamed of kicking the game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl many times," Vinatieri revealed. "That's the fun thing about being a kicker, you never know when it's going to come down to your kick deciding the game.

"You always have to be ready and prepared to step up when the pressure is on and make the most of your opportunity."

While he hopes to have an impact when playing in his second Super Bowl this weekend, Vinatieri is determined to enjoy as much of the big-game buildup as possible.

"There's a lot of guys that have played in the league who have never had the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl," Vinatieri said. "So every time you get here you have to really relish it and make the most of the opportunity.

"You never know if you're going to make it back here. We're going to prepare as hard as we can and try to come away with a victory this time.

"The Superdome is going to be loud and crazy come Sunday. We're going to have a lot of fans in here, the Rams will have a lot of fans - it's going to be a fun game."

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