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LAST SEASON: There's no way to sugarcoat disappointment of not ending
decade-long playoff drought on heels of going 9-7 two years ago. Shoulder injury
that affected QB Jameis Winston much of season was just part of problem. Running
game sputtered Tanoh
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, Winston had difficulty throwing deep to DeSean
Jackson after speedy receiver signed three-year, $33.5 million contract in free
agency, and what coach Dirk Koetter believed was capable of being high-scoring
offense struggled getting into end zone. Defensively, team took big step
backward, too, finishing last with 23 sacks.



POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; S Derwin James, Florida
State; G Quenton Nelson Sean Harlow
, Notre Dame; CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State, DE Marcus
Davenport, UTSA; DT Vita Vea, Washington.

OUTLOOK: With Winston entering fourth season, heat is on Koetter and general
manager Jason Licht to not only escape NFC South cellar but make playoffs for
first time since 2007. Top priority has been improving defensive and offensive
lines. Licht addressed sagging pass rush by trading for former Giants sackmaster
Jason Pierre-Paul and bolstered run defense by signing ex-Eagles Vinny Curry and
Beau Allen in free agency. Addition of ex-Ravens center Ryan Jensen, whose
arrival frees Ali Marpet to move to left guard, is big, too. Still, there are
plenty more holes to fill, especially in secondary where CB Brent Grimes turns
35 in July and CB Vernon Hargreaves III, first-round draft pick two years ago,
lost starting job last season.

Adam Vinatieri vividly remembers his last game
against Morten Andersen.

Andersen had already logged more than 20 seasons in the NFL, was well into
his 40s, nearing the end of his career and still kicking as well as anyone in
the league. Back then, Vinatieri marveled at how the seemingly ageless Andersen
managed to excel for so long.

Now Shaquill
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, more than a decade later, Vinatieri finds himself
grinding through his 23rd NFL training camp, hoping to join the NFL's career
scoring leader in the Hall of Fame. Andersen was inducted last year.

"I would have liked to have seen a handful more kickers and punters make it
in there, but finally getting a second kicker in and Ray Guy getting in, it's
good that we have some representation in there because those guys did a lot for
the league," the Indianapolis Colts kicker said.

Andersen's induction last year provided hope to specialists such as Vinatieri
that they, too, could be headed to Canton, Ohio, one day.

Until Andersen's selection, Vinatieri wasn't sure. The only one other "pure"
kicker to earn pro football's highest distinction was Jan Stenerud in 1991. Guy
was elected in 2014, ending the shutout for punters.

Some believe Vinatieri could be next.

His sterling resume glistens with Hall of Fame credentials: four Super Bowl
rings, the league record for 100-point seasons (20) and second all-time in
career scoring (2,487 points). Anderson finished with 2,544 and Vinatieri needs
58 points to break the record, which could happen at midseason if all goes

He owns the career record for scoring in postseason games (234) Marquel Lee
, is the only player to top 1,000 points and make 200 field
goals with two teams, has celebrated a league-record 225 victories, including
playoffs, and made a league-high 44 consecutive field goals. If Vinatieri
completes this season, he would become only the third 46-year-old player to suit
up for an NFL team.

His highlight reel contains some of the most memorable kicks in league
history: two last-minute field goals to win Super Bowls and the tying and
winning kicks in the infamous Snow Bowl, which helped New England win the first
of its five Lombardi Trophies. He has been dubbed the best clutch kicker in
league history and there's no indication "Automatic Adam" is slowing down.

"It's ridiculous," holder Rigoberto Sanchez said. "It's honestly out of this
world, I think. Twenty-three years in the league, still kicking the ball the way
he kicks it, 60 yards out in practice. It's unreal."

Just how much has Vinatieri seen and done during his career?

He is the last link to the NFL's developmental league in Europe, the one
Andrew Luck's father worked with, and one of only two players left from the
1990s. Former teammate Phil Dawson is the other.

Vinatieri joined the league before former teammates Peyton Manning and Tom
Brady, still reminds people he once tackled Herschel Walker and acknowledges
missing on Desmond Howard and Devin Hester as they returned his kickoffs for
Super Bowl scores.

He played for Hall of Fame coaches Bill Parcells and Tony Dungy, in addition
to Bill Belichick. His newest coach, Frank Reich Tevin Coleman
, actually threw for 281 yards against the Patriots during
Vinatieri's rookie season in 1996.

Somehow, though, he remains the epitome of consistency.

Last year, with a new long snapper and a new holder, Vinatieri still made
85.3 percent of his field goals and scored 109 points and now he's back with his
oldest son, A.J., serving as a ball boy at training camp.

"It comes to a point where Adam is Mr. Clutch over here, so (long snapper)
Luke (Rhodes) just tries to do his job right and get the 12 o'clock laces and I
try to get the ball in the spot that he likes and let him do the rest," said
Sanchez, who wasn't even born until a week after Vinatieri's NFL debut in 1996.
"He's been kicking it straight for a long time."

Despite the honors, the nicknames and the Hall of Fame predictions, Vinatieri
knows he may still need more to follow the kicker he has been watching since his
younger days in South Dakota into the NFL's most hallowed halls.

"I don't think it hurts, that's for sure," Vinatieri said. "It's one of those
things that I haven't really though too much about it. I'm still just trying to
help my team win games and keep on putting chapters in this book and if that
happens, fantastic."

NOTES: The Colts have activated starting safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik
Hooker from the physically unable to perform list Thursday. Both were coming off
knee surgery. ... Guard Jeremy Vujnovich also was activated from PUP. He had
been out with an injured calf after starting all 16 games last

Ezekiel Elliott
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