Vanderjerked around

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

He may be neither an "idiot kicker" nor a "Vanderjerk" but Mike Vanderjagt is doomed just the same.

Doomed as the Indianapolis Colts kicker beyond these playoffs, it would seem, and doomed to have those two labels hang with him through the remainder of his career.

Should the Oakville native ever have the good fortune to kick the winning field goal in a Super Bowl (or worse, miss one), one or both of these cracks will appear prominently.

"Vanderjagt, who Peyton Manning once called an 'idiot kicker,' " or "Vanderjagt, once referred to as 'Vanderjerk,' " will appear in nearly every account of the game.

And worse, should the former Argos kicker lead the Colts to huge playoff wins in their next three games it looks like it won't be enough to keep his job in Indy.

Why? Primarily because he speaks his mind too bluntly for some, as refreshing as that may be.

It's a shame Vanderjagt is still paying the price for comments he made two years ago in which he suggested that Colts quarterback Manning should show more emotion.

Never mind that he was right and that the Colts have been on fire since, what is remembered most is that Manning spat back by calling him "liquored up" and an "idiot kicker."

So when news filtered to New England this week that Vanderjagt said, among other things, that the Patriots were "ripe for the picking," the fallout was as swift as it was predictable.

MOTIVATION

That the comment was as innocent as it was accurate didn't seem to matter. These are the playoffs when motivation -- and story angles -- become magnified and manufactured.

The Colts used some a week ago, seizing on comments out of Denver suggesting that Indy receivers were soft. The Broncos are still licking their wounds from that.

Unfortunately, the only thing most football players tolerate less than kickers are kickers who run their mouths. Even Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, one of the more vanilla quotes in the league, tossed something usable at Vandy's words.

"It's a kicker talking," Brady told reporters in New England. "It means nothing whether he says it or doesn't say it."

Nothing drives Vanderjagt worse than that bunk, especially as long as games can be decided by field goals.

Being a kicker and all, Pats punter Josh Brown has a different take. Brown, who admits his more outspoken peer might have a point, has his own rule of mum when talking anywhere near a microphone or tape recorder.

"I would never say anything that would cause my teammates to say, 'Nice going, Josh,' " Brown said.

WORSE TIME

The latest Vandyism couldn't have come at a worse time for the kicker, who is already at odds with Colts management. GM Bill Polian has criticized Vanderjagt publicly much of the season for his inability to get the ball deep on kickoffs. Adding insult to the indictments, he has brought in no less than five other kickers to handle the duties (the most recent, Martin Gramatica, has to sting the most considering he is the definition of "idiot kicker.")

Vanderjagt responded with mostly silent treatment to the Indy media in recent weeks as the reality seeps in.

Considering he counts some $2.8 million US against the salary cap, it was a certainty Vanderjagt was going to face a pay cut this off-season. Now, he just plain may be cut and you get the impression he wouldn't mind a change of scenery.

When asked about his situation with the Colts this past Sunday, Vanderjagt politely told The Toronto Sun that he would "discuss it at a more appropriate time."

It was later that night on an Indy radio show that he made his mildly inflammatory remarks. The "ripe for the picking" comment referred, no doubt, to the banged-up New England secondary which now must step up and stop Manning.

Another -- "We're going to come back Sunday night going to the AFC title game" -- was merely a mindset that Manning and most of the Colts best be in as well.

Vanderjagt did say there were two kicks he would like back this season, most notably one in the season-opener in Foxboro which would have forced overtime.

He can't have them, of course. Nor can he erase the comments soiling the reputation of the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history.


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