Adam Vinatieri's father, Paul, said last night that his son wanted to remain with the Patriots in the worst way.
''He loved the fans there," the elder Vinatieri said from his home in South Dakota. ''They treated him so well. He'll never forget that, but the Colts treated him very well in their talks. They were straightforward and upfront and were able to get it done quickly with Adam, who really appreciated their interest in him."
Paul Vinatieri had been instructed by his son not to reveal anything about the negotiations between the Patriots.
''He wants to leave there with good feelings. He doesn't want anyone to make any comments about the Patriots situation," said the elder Vinatieri. ''He's enjoyed his teammates and his coaches, and that's the way he wants to walk away."
Adam Vinatieri agreed to a long-term contract with the Colts late Tuesday, and the deal, along with a physical, was finished up yesterday in Indianapolis. Vinatieri is healthy, no longer bothered by the back spasms he had a couple of years ago.
''It's hard to say goodbye," Vinatieri told Channel 4 last night.
''There's a lot of amazing things with the New England Patriots I was fortunate to be a part of," he said. ''There's a part of my heart that will always be there."
Meanwhile, the Patriots are looking for a replacement. They have had talks with former Viking and Bear Paul Edinger and have yet to speak with the man Vinatieri will replace in Indianapolis, Mike Vanderjagt, who was visiting the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. The Cowboys endured horrible kicking woes a year ago, and one wonders whether Dallas might end up being Vanderjagt's landing place. In fact, Vanderjagt stayed overnight in Dallas as the sides negotiated. It wasn't known whether Vanderjagt planned to visit the Patriots after that.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is in Florida on a spring training tour, before the owners' meetings, which begin Saturday in Orlando. Vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli is scheduled to depart for Florida in the next day or two.
The Falcons, meanwhile, are putting on a full-court press to re-sign free agent Todd Peterson, one of the few established kickers available.
Could the Patriots do what Bill Parcells did 10 years ago, when he went with an unknown rookie free agent kicker named Vinatieri? Then-special teams coach Mike Sweatman (now with the Giants) watched tape of Vinatieri in Europe and was convinced the Patriots should go with a young kicker. This year, the Patriots could wait until late in the draft and pluck any one of three top college kickers such as Stephen Gostkowski from Memphis, Jonathan Scifres from Southwest Missouri State, or Josh Huston from Ohio State. They could also look to NFL Europe for a kicker. The Jets drafted Mike Nugent in the second round last season.
Colts president Bill Polian told the Indianapolis media yesterday that he wasn't sure whether Vinatieri would kick off, but had no doubt he could, especially indoors. The Colts pulled Vanderjagt off kickoffs two years ago because he had lost some leg strength.
Coach Tony Dungy was thrilled the Colts were able to sneak in under the radar and grab Vinatieri. He compared it to the team adding defensive tackle Corey Simon a year ago.
''What you're excited about is that you have a guy who has been in those pressure situations and you don't have to guess how he's going to respond," Dungy said. ''That's really the biggest thing from our standpoint."
The Patriots agreed to a two-year deal with cornerback Chad Scott, outbidding the Jets for his services. Scott was placed on injured reserve by the Patriots Oct. 12 with a shoulder injury, playing just three games . . . Vinatieri called Packers vice president Andrew Brandt to tell him he appreciated how well the Packers treated him during his visit to Green Bay last week. ''We were disappointed but wish him the best," said Brandt, who was Vinatieri's first agent . . . The Patriots have made an informal initial inquiry on Buffalo wide receiver Eric Moulds, who has been given permission to seek a trade after the former All-Pro wouldn't take a paycut . . . Left tackle Matt Light said he is progressing well after breaking his right fibula last season. ''I've been working out in Foxborough every day," Light said. ''I'm doing well. All that stuff is behind me."