New England Patriots 2019 training camp primer: Specialists
Here’s what we know…
Placekicker Stephen Gostkowski is officially returning for his 14th season with the Patriots. The 35-year-old out of the University of Memphis faced an incredibly difficult task when he was drafted by the team back in 2006: replace legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri, who was largely responsible for New England’s three Super Bowl wins at that point in time.
Gostkowski has done a marvelous job, first filling Vinatieri’s gargantuan shoes and then eventually outgrowing them. While the most nostalgic Pats fans will forever revere Vinatieri for helping launch New England’s dynasty with some otherworldly kicks (particularly against the Raiders in the snowy ‘Tuck Rule’ game), his eventual defection to the one-time rival Indianapolis Colts helped clear the path for Gostkowski to stake his claim as New England’s most beloved kicker.
Already the team’s all-time leading scorer, Gostkowski also holds the distinguished records of being the most accurate kicker in Patriots history, as well as the third-most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL. He briefly explored free agency this past spring after his contract expired, but with both sides ultimately most interested in a reunion, he re-signed with the team for two years and $8.5 million. The contract could conceivably last him to the end of his NFL career, unless he decides he wants to chase Vinatieri for years played, which is highly unlikely (the Colts kicker, 46, recently announced he’d be returning for his 24th season).
The Patriots’ long snapper since 2015, Joe Cardona, is also set to return. Recently promoted to lieutenant in the United States Navy, Cardona signed a four-year contract extension last summer that should keep him in a New England uniform for the foreseeable future.