ANDERSON, Ind. — Adam Vinatieri was part of the same New England Patriots rookie class as Tedy Bruschi in 1996.
The pair helped the franchise win three Super Bowl titles in four appearances before Vinatieri departed for the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent following the 2005 season. Bruschi retired three years later.
The two-time all-pro linebacker will comment on tonight's AFC divisional playoff game between the Colts and Patriots as an analyst for ESPN. The 41-year-old Vinatieri, meanwhile, continues to add to his Hall of Fame credentials in Indianapolis.
The kicker's 26 career playoff appearances are the most by any player who will take the field at Gillette Stadium tonight. But he won't take the moment for granted.
Last week's epic wild-card comeback against Kansas City marked the first postseason victory Vinatieri took part in since Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007. He missed the Colts' run back to Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 regular season because of injury and experienced four straight playoff defeats before the rally against the Chiefs.
It would be understandable for a man to take a few moments to celebrate in such a circumstance. But that's simply not Vinatieri's nature.
"It's one of those ones that you can look back and it doesn't happen often when it's that dramatic," he said. "We enjoyed it while it was there. We enjoyed it for the next day. We've really moved on, and we're focusing on New England now."
That calm sense of purpose has served Vinatieri well throughout a remarkable 18-year career. He's made game-winning kicks to end two Super Bowls, and his 45-yard field goal through near-blizzard conditions to force overtime in a 2002 divisional playoff game against Oakland is one of the most indelible plays in Patriots history.