Jason Sanders has never known the NFL without Adam Vinatieri a part of it.
Sanders was born on Nov. 16, 1995.
Vinatieri entered the league the following fall.
Sanders is the league’s youngest kicker.
Vinatieri, born a month after Richard Nixon’s reelection, is the NFL’s oldest player.
“Adam Vinieteri is in his 23rd year?” Dolphins long snapper John Denney asked in Miami’s locker room this week. (Yes, he is).
Sanders’ answer, almost in disbelief: “I just turned 23. …. I was 1 year old when he was first starting the NFL. Pretty crazy.”
“It’s a long season,” Sanders continued. “I just figured out myself that last week, my college season would have been over. And now I’ve got six more games. To be able to do that for 22, 23 seasons, it takes a certain animal.”
That animal’s name is Vinatieri, who has drilled two Super Bowl game winners and broken most every kicking record during those 23 years.
He holds the NFL scoring record, with 2,561 points, surpassing Morten Andersen for first last month. Vinatieri also owns the career field-goal record (574) and is the only player in NFL history to score 1,000 points with two different teams.
“My goal is just to take it one year at a time,” Sanders said. “And I’m pretty sure that’s what he did. I think he struggled a lot when he first started in the NFL. I think he almost got cut by the Patriots. I think that’s a sign of not thinking about playing 23 years. That’s a sign of playing Sunday and one year at a time.”
Yes, Bill Parcells almost released Vinatieri after missing a string of kicks as a rookie in 1996, but straightened out his aim and launched a career that has been unmatched in league history.
Sanders, meanwhile, is trying to simply string together good games. So far, so good.
He has made 15 of 16 field-goal attempts as a rookie, and 20 of 21 extra points. Sanders has been the third-most accurate kicker in the league this year, tied with Stephen Hauschka (93.8 percent).
Behind him in the rankings: Vinatieri, who has missed three of his 18 attempts.
“Everybody has their own swing,” Sanders said. “Learning how to kick, you may take something that someone is very good at and try to get your own style. At the end of the day, each kicker has their own style.”
Your scouting report on the three-time All Pro?
“Just that it goes in.”