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Vinatieri ready to kick against Giants

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 4, 2006) -- Adam Vinatieri slipped a brace onto his non-kicking foot, then calmly pronounced himself ready to play.

Five days after the most discussed foot in Indianapolis become a headline topic, Vinatieri ended the discussion about his availability for the Colts season-opener at New York. He says he'll play.

"I feel pretty good, actually," he said in his first comments since hurting the foot last month. "I'm getting some work in this week, and I'll be ready to go for the weekend."

Vinatieri was Indy's biggest offseason acquisition.

The Colts signed the NFL's best clutch kicker to a five-year contract worth $12 million in March, bringing him in to replace Mike Vanderjagt, the NFL's most accurate kicker. Vanderjagt signed as a free agent with Dallas.

Indy officials had hoped Vinatieri's addition would do three things: add a proven foot for the playoffs, where Vanderjagt endured his greatest failures; provide better kickoffs, a concern for the Colts over the past several seasons; and eliminate the controversy the brash Vanderjagt occasionally created.

Vinatieri delivered the winning kicks in two of New England's three Super Bowl victories and consistently delivered solid kickoffs in training camp before the injury.

He instantly became one of the media's most requested players early in camp, and then came the questions about the severity of Vinatieri's injury.

Vinatieri, in his typically soft-spoken way, downplayed the injury.

"There's probably a lot of guys across the league who probably are not 100 percent," Vinatieri said. "But I feel pretty good. I'm ready to go."

Vinatieri has not practiced with the team since injuring his left foot while running in practice Aug. 14. He missed the Colts' final three preseason games.

Coach Tony Dungy initially said Vinatieri had a sprained ankle, but last week Vinatieri's mother, Judy, told The Indianapolis Star her son had a fractured foot.

Amid the speculation, the Colts uncharacteristically issued a medical statement Friday saying Vinatieri had a sprained ligament and a small bone chip in his left foot. Some wondered whether Vinatieri's consecutive games streak, now at 160, might end this week.

Don't count on it.

"In 10 years in the NFL, I've not missed a game and I'm not planning to miss one any time soon," he said. "Obviously, I'm going to kick as many as I can this week and not overdo it."

The first indication of Vinatieri's availability came when the Colts released backup kicker Shane Andrus in the team's final cutdown.

If the Colts were worried Vinatieri couldn't play, they likely would have kept Andrus or signed another kicker.

Vinatieri, who also made two kicks in a snowstorm that led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory, left little to interpretation as he pronounced himself healthy enough to place-kick and kickoff even if the foot isn't quite 100 percent.

"We'll get it taped up and it will be fine," he said. "It's part of the game, it's not that big a deal. I've been getting as much treatment as I can and the training staff has done a great job getting it as healthy as they can as quick as they can."

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