GLENDALE, ARIZ. -- Adam Vinatieri hasn't missed an extra point in five seasons for the Indianapolis Colts, but in the 19-year veteran's third trip to the Pro Bowl Sunday night, he made just one of three PAT tries for Team Irvin. Had it not been for some rule changes implemented just for the Pro Bowl, Vinatieri believes he would have made all three and thinks that a 38-yard field goal attempt pushed wide left at the end of the third quarter would have been good as well.
The NFL experimented with slimmer and taller uprights, shrinking the distance between goalposts from 18 feet to 14 feet. Additionally, extra points were pushed back to make them 35-yard attempts.
"Anytime you make our job more difficult, no kicker is going to be happy with that," Vinatieri said. "Ask a receiver if we should take their gloves off because they catch the ball too well, nobody is going to be overly happy about that. I understand that the wheels of change are in motion and people want to change stuff, but I feel bad for the young bucks that will have to deal with that their whole career."
One of those young bucks is Cody Parkey of the Philadelphia Eagles, who represented Team Carter and managed to successfully convert both of his PAT tries. Still, the 24-year-old rookie who nailed 54 of 54 extra points in 2014 and 32 of 36 field goal attempts wasn't happy with the change either.
"I’m hoping this doesn’t happen because I like things the way they are," Parkey said. "But I’m going to roll with the punches so whatever the NFL decides to do, I’m going to do my best to master it."
Neither Vinatieri nor Parkey had much of a chance to practice the tries at all in the week leading up to the exhibition game. The pair of kickers practiced on nets with lines on them painted 14 feet apart Friday, and didn't actually get an opportunity to see the uprights until warmups before the game, which made for "a big shock," according to Parkey.
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The obvious goal of the experiment from the NFL was to encourage teams to go for more two-point conversions and touchdowns by making place kicking more difficult. Vinatieri says the ramifications of that could be more drastic than a little more offense, though.
"I know one thing, I doubt that there will be as many 50-yard field goals attempted because your percentages are going to be way down," Vinatieri said. "On this it’s going to be made probably less than half and then nobody is going to try. If you want to move the extra points back and you want skinny posts, you’ve just got to be prepared for the results.
"The game will change a bunch. If that’s what they’re looking for, well then so be it, but there will be a lot more kicks missed. We had a nice night, not a lot of wind or anything. If you get a crummy field and crummy weather, you’re going to have a lot of two-point conversions."
It's possible that the increased difficulty for place kickers could increase the value of players able to find success despite the changes. If Pro Bowl-level kickers like Parkey are able to hit kicks while many of the NFL's kickers are unable to keep their numbers up, that could mean more money going to the top guys. Parkey says that could also be a double-edged sword, though.
"Kicker value could potentially go up, but if they scoot the extra point back, more people are going to miss and more teams will go for two so I guess that could make kickers less valuable. It could work both ways, it just depends."
NFL kickers finished 1,222 of 1,230 on extra points tries in the regular season in 2014 and were successful on 84 percent of field goal attempts. The league-wide average for PAT attempts finished above 99 percent for the fifth consecutive season.