Colts pick up veteran kicker Gramatica as insurance

INDIANAPOLIS -- With kicker Adam Vinatieri nursing a groin injury that kept him out of practice all week, and his availability still uncertain, the Indianapolis Colts on Friday night signed veteran free agent Martin Gramatica, league sources here told ESPN.com.

The Colts remain cautiously optimistic that Vinatieri, who was the team's highest profile addition in the offseaon, will be able to handle placements in Sunday's key divisional game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Vinatieri, who suffered the groin injury in last week's victory over Houston, has converted all seven field-goal attempts in the first two outings of the season, and he also handled the kickoffs.

Vinatieri overcame a ligament sprain in his plant ankle and a chipped bone, injuries that severely limited his work in the preseason, to recover in time for the start of the regular season. Team officials fear, though, that he might aggravate the injury if he has to kick off Sunday.

That would prolong Vinatieri's recovery and, for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, the Colts want the clutch kicker available for field goals.

Colts officials auditioned Gramatica, who had a short stint with the team in 2004, on Wednesday, and he kicked well. Gramatica, 30, stayed here all week, assuming the Colts might need him as an insurance policy for the Jaguars game. If it is determined in pregame warmups that Vinatieri can't handle the placements, then Gramatica will take on those responsibilities as well.

Plagued by injuries the past two seasons, Gramatica was out of the league in 2005 and has not attempted a field goal in a regular-season game since November 2004. He signed with New England this spring and converted both his field-goal attempts in the preseason but was released.

The six-year veteran spent nearly all of his NFL tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including three seasons under coach Tony Dungy, but he was released late in 2004 and signed by Indianapolis to handle kickoff chores. He averaged 61.8 yards for the Colts while handling the kickoff duties in four games. His career kickoff average is 62.9 yards.

For his career, Gramatica has converted 137 of 179 field-goal attempts and all but two of his 183 extra-point tries for 592 points. But his career, which included an all-rookie team selection in 1999 and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2000, spiraled downward his last two seasons with the Bucs, and his inconsistency led to his 2004 release. Notable, too, is that Gramatica is just 43-for-71 on field-goal tries beyond 39 yards.

The former Kansas State star was a third-round choice in the '99 draft, twice scored more than 100 points for the Bucs, and still holds many of the franchise's placement records.

Contract details for his deal with the Colts were not immediately available. The contract, though, is likely for the minimum salary of $585,000, prorated over the number of weeks he is with the team.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.