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His feats in past

Vinatieri's new No. 4 is unveiled

INDIANAPOLIS -- Out with the old . . .

Before he looks for housing, before he applies for an Indiana driver's license, before he even brings a car to town, Adam Vinatieri says he has a run to make.

It is to the Indianapolis Colts' Pro Shop to buy gift certificates for his family. And before you know it, the Vinatieri clan will put away their Patriots gear and begin sporting the colors of the Colts.

Vinatieri picked up his first piece of Colts wardrobe from team president Bill Polian, who yesterday afternoon handed the former Patriots kicker a blue No. 4 game jersey as part of the traditional NFL welcome.

While Colts fans gleefully anticipate victories they perceive will accompany Vinatieri's new look, many Patriots' fans are wistful in the thought that their No. 4 Vinatieri jerseys, which just a few days ago were all the style, are now throwbacks.

Thanks for the memories.

''The memories there have been fantastic," Vinatieri said yesterday at the Union Federal Football Center, home of the Colts' practice facility and team offices. ''The opportunities there have been great. There will always be a special spot in my heart for the New England Patriots. The guys that I've played with over the past 10 years and the things they've accomplished, I'll always miss a certain degree of that. But I'm very, very excited about making some history with the Indianapolis Colts also.

''For me, obviously, leaving New England is tough in a sense that I had many, many great memories there, but the Indianapolis Colts organization is such a great organization, a winning organization. Everything about them is fantastic, so it made a lot of sense to me, and it was an easy decision at this point to jump on board with the Indianapolis Colts."

Vinatieri, who twice was designated a franchise player with the Patriots -- including last season when he played under a one-year contract -- made certain to note he left seeking security in a long-term deal the Patriots would not provide, and that he didn't leave in anger. The Colts and Vinatieri agreed on a five-year, $12 million deal with a $3.5 million signing bonus Tuesday.

''I have no animosity at all toward that organization," Vinatieri said. ''If there is any one thing I can say, I just want to say thank you to all the fans for all the support, for all the well-wishing, and just all the people there that have supported not only myself, but the team.

''I've got big expectations for the people in Indianapolis. I'm sure their fans are amazing here. But I really, really appreciate what New England has done, not only for myself, but for the team. They're great. They're a great organization, and really a truly classy place."

The feeling is mutual. Patriots owner Robert Kraft called Vinatieri to thank him for his contributions and to wish him well, and some of his former teammates, including Tom Brady, also phoned to offer congratulations and/or say goodbye.

It didn't take long for Vinatieri's new teammates to make contact, either, as Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has already welcomed him aboard.

''It's cool. When you get star quarterbacks calling the lowly kickers, it's a good thing," Vinatieri said.

Polian said negotiations were speedy, although the Colts had not even inquired about Vinatieri, assuming he would re-sign with New England.

Polian and Colts vice president of football operations Chris Polian met Monday morning and Vinatieri's name came up because he remained on the free agent market. Before they could act on the discussion, Vinatieri's new representative Gary Uberstine called to ask if they were interested.

Through the first week and a half of free agency, Vinatieri had just one substantive meeting with a suitor, the Green Bay Packers.

Soon after Uberstine called the Colts, Bill Polian had a discussion with owner Jim Irsay that cleared the way for an offer. By the next afternoon, Uberstine was calling Bill Belichick to inform him that Vinatieri would become a Colt.

''It's [a signing] that we didn't anticipate happening," Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said. ''I think we're the beneficiaries of a guy who wanted to win and wanted to come to us, and that's a plus."

The Patriots will certainly take a step down in class with whomever is brought in to replace Vinatieri, the franchise's all-time leading scorer.

Vinatieri now gets to kick indoors at the RCA Dome, where he is perfect in his career (10 for 10), but he would not share the classified information he has gleaned from kicking at Gillette Stadium, which, statistically, has been the most difficult stadium for visiting kickers since it opened for the 2002 season.

''I can't give away any secrets," the newest Colt said with a smile.

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