Out of Indianapolis, Vanderjagt glad to be with Cowboys
IRVING, Texas - What kicker Mike Vanderjagt gives Dallas might be the same thing the Cowboys provide him: a sense of security.
The NFL's most accurate kicker felt unappreciated toward the end of his eight seasons with Indianapolis, where his last attempt was a badly missed 46-yard field goal in the playoffs that would have forced overtime against eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys had their own share of big misses last year, shuffling through three kickers during a season that ended with Dallas losing three games by three points or fewer.
So when the Cowboys signed Vanderjagt in March to the biggest contract they've ever given a kicker - $5.4 million over three seasons - both sides appeared to get what they needed.
"I feel like (Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones and (head coach) Bill (Parcells) feel like they've got somebody here that's going to probably win them two or three more games than they would have won last year," Vanderjagt said during the Cowboys' final day of minicamp Sunday.
"I feel very much wanted and needed here, and it's been a while since I felt that way."
The Colts let Vanderjagt's contract expire at the end of last season, bidding farewell to the league's most reliable kicker but one whose outspokenness sometimes agitated his team.
He was called an "idiot kicker" by quarterback Peyton Manning in 2003 after criticizing Manning for not showing enough emotion. Some in the Colts organization were also bothered when Vanderjagt tried a 46-yard field goal on the David Letterman Show following his miss in the AFC divisional playoffs.
Vanderjagt remains candid about his former team, saying Sunday that it was Colts president Bill Polian who decided he wasn't capable of kicking off and that "there's a lot of things Indy as an organization needed to improve" last year besides his missed field goal against the Steelers.
Now that he's with the Cowboys, Vanderjagt said he wants the opportunity to win the kickoff job and that Parcells is "excited" about having a kicker with the highest field goal accuracy rate in NFL history.
Vanderjagt has made 217-of-245 kicks (87.5 percent) and holds an NFL record with 42 straight consecutive field goals without a miss.
The Cowboys didn't have near that kind of reliability last season, when Dallas was a combined 20-of-28 on field goals with four misses under 40 yards. Two kickers had been cut by the end of the season, including Billy Cundiff, the team's primary kicker the past four seasons.
Vanderjagt has never kicked in Texas Stadium and will no longer be mainly kicking in a dome. But he was just as accurate outdoors last season (11-of-12) as he was indoors (12-of-13).
"I truly feel like I'm in a zone right now," Vanderjagt said.
Still, Vanderjagt wants to make a clutch click with the Cowboys to help erase the memory of his last one with the Colts, even though he doesn't think that kick will define his career.
"Michael Jordan missed game-winning jump shots, Tiger Woods missed putts. Does that mean they're not as good as you think they are?" Vanderjagt said.
"I'm the best kicker in the history of the game regardless of whether I missed my last kick or not, and that's the way I look at it."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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