Friday, January 31, 2003

Colts kicker criticizes coach, team

By Steve Herman
The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt apologized Thursday to coach Tony Dungy, quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of his teammates for criticisms he said came from his frustration with losing.

In a Canadian cable TV interview earlier this week, Vanderjagt said Manning should show more emotion, Dungy is too nice to be effective and many other Colts players lack a passion for the game.

"Basically, I spoke before I thought," Vanderjagt said in a statement sent to the media by his agent, Gil Scott. "I am extremely frustrated by losing and expressed it in the wrong manner and in the wrong forum."

In the interview with The Score, a Toronto-based cable sports network, Vanderjagt said, "I'm not a real big Colts fan right now, unfortunately. I just don't see us getting better.

"Coach Dungy, he's just a mild-mannered guy. He doesn't get too excited, he doesn't get too down and I don't think that works either. ... I think you need a motivator, I think you need a guy that is going to get in somebody's face when they're not performing well enough," the Canadian-born kicker said in the TV interview.

The Colts were 10-6 last season but lost 41-0 to the New York Jets in the first round of playoffs.

Scott said that Vanderjagt has spoken with Dungy and with Colts president Bill Polian since the interview and is trying to contact Manning, who is in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.

Manning was asked about Vanderjagt's statements during an interview Thursday in Honolulu.

"I don't want to talk about that. I have no comment," Manning said before abruptly ending the interview.

Other players in Hawaii were surprised by Vanderjagt's comments.

"It's unfortunate when anybody says something like that," Carolina punter Todd Sauerbrun said. "As a kicker, it's important to be supportive of your teammates, because they're the ones that put you in position to do your job. It's disappointing to hear what Mike said."

In the statement on Thursday, Vanderjagt said, "Obviously this issue has taken a turn for the worse. My intentions were not negative ones. My thoughts and feelings were based on positive emotion and were not meant to put down Peyton, Tony or any individual in the Colts organization.

"I apologize to Peyton, Tony, the Colts organization and the people of Indianapolis. I may be `just a kicker,' but I have tremendous passion for winning. I would love nothing more than to put this issue to rest and move forward as an organization and as a member of the Colts team in an attempt to win a championship."

Vanderjagt, the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, has scored at least 100 points during a club-record five straight years. He signed a $7.75 million, five-year contract extension with the Colts in November 2000 that at the time made him the league's highest-paid kicker.

In an interview with Sporting News Radio on Thursday, Dungy said Vanderjagt should have come to him with his complaints instead of airing his criticism on television.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't, so now we have to deal with the other ramifications, but the big thing is to just get to the heart of how Mike feels, and if he feels that way, and feels like he can't kick with his whole heart because we aren't doing things the way he wants them done, then he should be somewhere else, and we'll try and get that done."

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