SAN FRANCISCO — The NFL placekicker fraternity is a small one, and former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri came to the defense of one of his field goal-kicking frat brothers, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, on Wednesday at Super Bowl 50.
Vinatieri, who delivered two Lombardi Trophies to the Patriots with game-winning kicks in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII, said fans shouldn’t hold Gostkowski’s missed extra point in the first quarter of the AFC Championship game vs. Denver against him.
Gostkowski’s miss snapped his run of 523 straight successful extra points.
“Stephen is awesome. I’ve got the utmost respect for him. I think he is a great kicker,” said Vinatieri, the all-time leader in postseason points (234) and field goals (56).
“He didn’t miss one all [regular] season long. He missed one extra point the whole season. I wouldn’t hold it too much against him on that. That’s for dang sure. I think he is as good of a guy as you’re ever going to get to kick for your team. You would be fortunate and lucky to have him.”
Vinatieri acknowledged he was surprised by Gostkowski’s miss on the 33-yard extra point, which resulted in the Patriots having to try a tying 2-point conversion with 12 seconds left, instead of simply sending the game to overtime with a made extra point.
“Whenever you miss a kick it’s a lousy feeling, obviously, but he is so good. I mean, it shocked me,” said Vinatieri, whose team record for field goals Gostkowski broke this season. “I was like, ‘No way,’ just because he is so good.”
Vinatieri said the switch to kicking the extra point from the 15-yard line this season means that kickers’ margin for error is a lot smaller. He was 32 of 35 on extra points this season. One was blocked, another tipped, and one he just missed.
Vinatieri said no one likes to see their job made harder. But that’s what the NFL did, spurred by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who advocated for a longer PAT.
“It’s one of those things where if everything doesn’t go right you can’t fake it anymore,” said Vinatieri. “Back in the day, you could mishit a kick or something. This year, if you don’t hit it well it doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go. It’s one of those things.
“I think they did exactly what they wanted to in making it so it’s not a guaranteed thing. I saw a lot of different teams go for 2, and the outcomes of the games were different because of missed extra points. So, I think that’s what they were trying to achieve, and I think they did. “
Out of line
Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was always known for a physical and borderline-dirty style of play, and he upset a few Panthers players with comments he made Tuesday about trying to injure Cam Newton.
“If I see Cam Newton running the ball and he’s a quarterback and I’m on defense, I’m trying to hurt him,” Harrison told Newsday. “I’m trying to knock him out of the game.”
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen took exception.
“That’s obviously disappointing,” Olsen said. “I think any time somebody even at all addresses the fact of trying to injure somebody in this game, I don’t think there’s any place for it. Any time somebody says that about anybody, let alone your MVP quarterback, I think that speaks more about him than it does anything else.”
“Trash talk and people questioning you is one thing. People just coming right out overtly and stating that they would try to injure your star quarterback in the Super Bowl, I think those are two different things. I didn’t hear exactly what he said. If it was how it’s being portrayed, then yeah, I think that’s uncalled for and I think it’s somewhat embarrassing.”
Count Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders among those tuning out the talk of Panthers cornerback Josh Norman heading into the Super Bowl. Norman keeps receivers from getting open, but his mouth rarely closes.
In December, Norman got into a public spat with Harrison after Harrison said that Norman was one of the best corners in the league, but wasn’t good enough to shut down the Falcons’ Julio Jones.
Sanders, who has recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, said he was tired of talking about Norman. He said that Norman had “talked his way” into the media spotlight.
“I’ve answered more questions about Norman than anything I’ve been asked about, and I’m kind of getting tired of it because at the end of the day it’s not about Norman,” said Sanders. “It’s about what I do. Norman isn’t the only cornerback over there. Norman isn’t the only person on that defense. Norman is just one of those guys that media loves to talk about because he loves to trash talk, the beef with Odell Beckham Jr.
“That’s not saying that he is not an exceptional player, but that’s what you guys like to talk about because he has talked himself into the media. At the end of the day, man, we’re just going to go out and play football. I still think Norman is a problem, but we’ve got to go out and handle him. But I’m just tired of talking about him.”
The Panthers and Broncos held their first full-speed practice of the week, and both teams had 100 percent participation. The Broncos had only three players who were limited: Safeties T.J. Ward (ankle) and Darian Stewart (knee), and guard Louis Vasquez (knee). Panthers defensive end Jared Allen (foot) was the only player limited for Carolina, and linebacker Thomas Davis was a full participant 10 days after breaking his forearm in the NFC Championship game . . . Broncos defensive lineman Antonio Smith plans to play in the Super Bowl despite learning of his father’s death on Wednesday.