FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) – Adam Vinatieri is on pace to make history again.

Vinatieri, who has kicked game-winning field goals in the waning moments of two Super Bowls, and has provided the final margin in a third, needs 73 points during the 2005 regular season to become the New England Patriots’ career scoring leader.

“That’ll be in the back of my head – very far back,” Vinatieri said Monday. “The team success is way more important than any personal goals, but it just means I’ve been fortunate to play on a good team for a long time.”

An undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State, Vinatieri has scored 1,058 career points in nine seasons, all with New England.

Gino Cappelletti, now the radio voice of the team, scored 1,130 points as a kicker and wide receiver in 11 seasons from 1960 to 1970.

“It means a lot to me because I respect the guy so much,” Vinatieri said of Cappelletti. “He’s a great football player, a great man.”

Vinatieri, 32, is coming off his best season, one in which he scored a career-high 141 points. He missed just two of 33 field goal attempts, from 47 and 50 yards.

Vinatieri also was 5-for-5 in the postseason, including a 22-yard field goal with 3:49 to play in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in February’s Super Bowl.

“It was a good year,” said Vinatieri, who will become a free agent after the season, unless he and the Patriots work out a contract extension. “It was neat because Josh Miller, a new holder, comes in and he did great job, and Lonie (Paxton, the long snapper) did a great job.

“Early in the year we were kicking a lot of field goals, but later on we didn’t need as many. All in all it was a pretty good year all the way across the board.”

That wasn’t the case in 2003. Vinatieri ended that season with his second dramatic Super Bowl-winning kick, a 41-yarder with four seconds left that beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29.

However, chronic back pain caused him to miss a career-high nine field goals during the regular season and three more in the playoffs, including his first two attempts in the Super Bowl.

“I did a lot of things that offseason to try to strengthen my core and get back to where I needed to,” Vinatieri said. “Last year I didn’t have any issues at all with it. It was good. The team did great. We were rolling.”



NOTES: The Patriots released rookie tight Andy Stokes, this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant” as the final overall pick in the draft. Stokes attended William Penn, an NAIA school in Iowa. The team also signed tight end Matt Brandt.

AP-ES-08-08-05 1837EDT


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