Vinatieri retires as NFL's all-time leading scorer

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Kicker Adam Vinatieri, the NFL’s all-time scoring leader, announced his retirement after 24 seasons in the league and four Super Bowl championships.

Vinatieri, 48, was undrafted out of South Dakota State and started his career as kicker and punter for the Amsterdam Admirals of the World League of American Football, later known as NFL Europe. He joined the Patriots the following season as an undrafted free agent after beating out veteran kicker Matt Bahr for the starting roster spot in New England.

In his 10 seasons in New England, Vinatieri scored over 100 points every season and connected on 263 of 321 field-goal tries and 367 of 374 extra-point attempts.

Vinatieri kicked game-winning field goals in two of the three Super Bowl championships he won with the Patriots and was part of a dynasty that included quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. His 48-yard field goal on the last play of Super Bowl XXXVI secured a 20-17 win over the St. Louis Rams, and with the game tied in the final seconds of Super Bowl XXXVIII, he scored a 41-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick opened his first news conference of OTAs on Thursday with comments about the retirement of Vinatieri, who he considers is the best kicker of all time.

“Adam’s, really, in my mind, the best of all time,” Belichick said. “His consistency, his ability to handle clutch situations and make the biggest kicks, and just the longevity of his career — you know, it was a quarter of a century — and the consistency is just remarkable.

“It was such a pleasure to be with Adam, even from his rookie year in 1996 to then when I came back, he was right in the prime of his career. He made so many big kicks. We were in so many close games during the time when he was here and I was the head coach.”

“We were in so many close games that his ability to consistently put points on the board was incredibly valuable,” Belichick said. “Two game-winning kicks in Super Bowls, it just doesn’t get any bigger than that. One thing with Adam, he never felt that, he never felt the pressure of the moment.”

New England elected not to designate Vinatieri as a franchise player for a second consecutive season in 2006 and allowed him to become a free agent. Vinatieri signed a five-year, $12 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts and joined Peyton Manning to win Super Bowl XLI 29-17 over the Chicago Bears.

The veteran kicker played in Indianapolis for 14 seasons and finished his NFL career a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro pick three times.

Vinatieri scored 29 game-winning field goals, including 10 game-winning kicks in overtime and scored a league-record 2,673 points and 599 field goals. He is the only player in league history to top the 1,000-point mark, scoring 1,158 with the New England Patriots and 1,515 with the Indianapolis Colts.