By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — It certainly hasn’t taken very long for Adam Vinatieri to make himself comfortable with the Indianapolis Colts.
The former New England Patriots placekicker, who had been a thorn in the side of the Colts for the past several years, has now become a key component in Indianapolis’ hopes for success in 2006.
When Indianapolis officials initially made the decision not to re-sign veteran Mike Vanderjagt at the conclusion of last season, it was not with the idea of replacing him with a guy who has been known as the best clutch kicker in the NFL.
But after talks between Vinatieri and the Patriots failed to produce a new contract and a visit to the Green Bay Packers didn’t result in an offer, the Colts moved quickly to work out their own deal. So far, the move has proved to be good for all involved.
“Adam’s doing very well. We kicked a little bit [Friday] and he did well, which we expected. But he’s just fit in to the group really well and he’s going to be a pleasure, really,” Colts Coach Tony Dungy said Saturday after putting the team through the second of five scheduled workouts during a three-day mandatory mini-camp. The camp, which includes veterans and rookies, is scheduled to conclude today.
Vinatieri has been a regular at Indianapolis’ off-season conditioning workouts, which began last month, as well as taking part in this week’s mini-camp. Having a kicker spend so much time in the conditioning program and off-season practices is somewhat of a change for the Colts.
“Unusual here,” Dungy joked, referring to Vanderjagt’s sometimes erratic participation in the workouts. “But not unusual for [Vinatieri]. He’s into his routine. That’s something that we talked about. I do understand kickers and that their routine, what’s good for them, is good. It doesn’t necessarily have to go with how we are and we can adjust. But he pretty much laid out his routine for me and I think it’s going to fit in very well to what we do.
“He enjoys being around. He works and he’s going to be good for us. He’s been working (with punter/holder Hunter Smith and long snapper Justin Snow) a lot. That’s what he wanted to do. Within a couple of days [of signing with the team] they were out working and working on timing.”
Since signing a five-year, $12 million contract with Indianapolis in late March, Vinatieri has maintained a nearly constant presence at the Colts’ practice facility.
“It’s been pretty smooth so far. The coaches here are great. The players have been fantastic. I’m very fortunate with work with Justin and Hunter. These two guys are great. They’re very good at what they do, so I think it’s going to be a pretty smooth transition,” Vinatieri said.
“We’ve been working a little bit the past couple of weeks. Until everybody has pads on and we start banging, it’s never a true test. But this will be good. The games start in September, so we’ve got a long time until those are around. We’ll get it down pretty good, especially with these two guys. They’re so good at what they do, it shouldn’t take us too long.”
n Easy transition — As good as Hunter Smith has been as a holder for the Colts, he admits to a couple minor differences in the way he held the ball for Vanderjagt in the past and in the way that Vinatieri likes it. But, overall, the transition from one former Pro Bowl kicker to the next has been relatively painless.
“It’s like we’ve been doing it for years,” Smith said Saturday. “The great thing is, in our craft, we try to perfect to a point where there aren’t many kickers that wouldn’t come in and just feel right at home. That’s really our goal.
“You have to ask him as to whether we’ve done that. I think he’s happy. He likes me to hold the ball a little different that Mike and we adjusted that in the first 20 or 30 seconds. And I think it’s been good ever since. He’s kicking the ball really well. He’s a great kicker. Easy to work with, fun to work with.”
n Addai learning — Top draft pick Joseph Addai appears to be making a rapid adjustment to the NFL. The first-year running back from LSU displayed a bit more quickness in Saturday’s two practices, which Dungy credited to an improving comfort level in learning the Colts’ complicated offense.
“It’s just being a little more comfortable with the snap count and what we do. But he was very encouraging [Saturday],” the Indianapolis coach said. “I thought he was a little more sure of himself and a little more sudden in what he did. He was going maybe with a little more, just knowing what he was doing.”
Addai has been impressive through the first three practices at catching the football, a trait that should earn him high marks from offensive coordinator Tom Moore and quarterback Peyton Manning.
“He catches very well,” Dungy said. “He understands the passing game. He’s going to be a good route runner for us. So, yeah, he’s doing well.”
n Sorgi still out — Backup quarterback Jim Sorgi missed a second day of practices Saturday due to a sore right shoulder. Sorgi visited doctors on Friday after experiencing some discomfort in the shoulder during some passing drills last week.
“I have not really spoken with Jim and haven’t spoken to the doctors, so I don’t really have a lot to tell you,” Dungy said. “Hopefully we’ll have a little more (to disclose) about it (today).”
The Colts coach did say, however, that if Sorgi’s shoulder becomes a long-term problem, the team might be forced to look into other options.
“That would be a big problem for us if it was anything long-term. Hopefully it won’t be. But we’ll see,” Dungy said.
Indianapolis did visit with former Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick Tim Couch early last week and worked him out as a possibility for the third quarterback spot on the team’s roster. The Colts, though, did not offer Couch a contract.
n Stokley absent — Wide receiver Brandon Stokley was also missing Saturday, but he had a pretty good reason. Stokley was with his wife, Lana, at an Indianapolis hospital waiting on the birth of the couple’s second child.
Another receiver, Aaron Moorehead, was at practice but did not take part in any drills. He is recovering from back surgery, which was performed last week.
n Rushing in school — Seventh-round draft pick T.J. Rushing is one of two Colts rookies who have been unable to take part in this weekend’s mini-camp.
The former Stanford cornerback, who is expected to be a contender for the team’s kickoff and punt return duties, is finishing up college class commitments. Rushing joins undrafted free agent quarterback David Koral, who is wrapping up the spring semester at UCLA.