Outspoken Vanderjagt suddenly silent with Colts coming to Dallas

Friday, November 17th 2006, 5:45 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) Wearing a blue warmup outfit with a plate of food in his hand, Mike Vanderjagt breezed past a group of reporters standing in the hallway and into a restricted area at the Dallas Cowboys' complex.

The usually outspoken kicker didn't stop to chat, and answered only one question. Asked the color of his attire, he joked, "Indy Blue.''

Vanderjagt's self-imposed silence started when the Indianapolis Colts, his former team, were the next game on the schedule. He didn't talk after Sunday's game in Arizona, and hasn't been in the locker room during open periods this week.

When training camp started in July, Vanderjagt knew the exact date of the game against the Colts, the team he kicked for the past eight seasons. But he's not talking now with the undefeated Colts (9-0) coming to Dallas on Sunday.

So much for the "lively'' quotes that Colts coach Tony Dungy expected to come out of Dallas this week.

'I enjoyed Mike when he was here,'' Dungy said this week. 'Mike kicked well for us. I always had confidence that he was going to make kicks and he made a lot of big kicks for us. ... Mike's a guy that I've appreciated.''

But the NFL's most accurate kicker's last attempt for the Colts was during the AFC division playoffs in January, when he badly missed a 46-yarder that would have forced overtime against Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

Vanderjagt wasn't re-signed by Indianapolis in March, which instead signed free agent Adam Vinatieri, who twice hit winning kicks in the Super Bowl for New England. Vanderjagt got a $5.4 million, three-year deal from the Cowboys.

For all his success, there was another notable miss by Vanderjagt in December 2000, when he was wide right on a 49-yard attempt in overtime that would have sent the Colts into the second round of the playoffs.

There were also the critical comments Vanderjagt made about Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning after a 41-0 playoff loss to the New York Jets in January 2003. That led to Manning's reference to the "idiot kicker.''

Vanderjagt is 12-of-15 on field goals this season. Two of his misses hit the upright and another potential game-winning kick against the New York Giants was blocked.

Vanderjagt got off to a slow start in Dallas with coach Bill Parcells, who said kicking woes last season for the Cowboys (a 9-7 team that didn't make the playoffs) cost them three victories.

After pulling a groin muscle early and being sidelined most of the preseason. Vanderjagt missed two short potential winning kicks in overtime of the preseason finale. Parcells didn't even take him to the regular season opener.

Vanderjagt made both field goal attempts in the second game, but Parcells kept a second kicker to handle kickoffs until finally cutting Shaun Suisham after the fifth game.

Parcells said Vanderjagt has been 'all right.'' So does he have confidence in the kicker?

"I think we have to go further down the road, but he's been kicking the ball a lot better and more consistently in practice,'' Parcells said. "He looks like he's pretty much in the groove now pretty well, so I feel pretty confident about trying just about anything.''