Jim Donaldson: Gramatica signing is no reason for Patriots fans to celebrate

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Apr 9, 2006, 12:05:10 AM4/9/06

Jim Donaldson: Gramatica signing is no reason for Patriots fans to celebrate

01:00 AM EDT on Sunday, April 9, 2006

Let me guess . . . when you heard the Patriots had signed kicker Martin
Gramatica, you leaped into the air, pumping your fist in celebration.
And, when you landed, you injured your knee.
Just like Martin's brother, Bill, did after booting a 42-yard field goal for
the Cardinals in the first quarter -- that's right, the FIRST quarter -- of
a scoreless game at Giants Stadium in 2001.
Or perhaps you had a different reaction. How about, when you heard the Pats
had signed Martin Gramatica, you fell to your knees, shaking your fists in
exasperation? Is that more like it?
It's a Gramatica family trait to celebrate even routine field goals as if
they were Super Bowl game-winners. You know, like the ones Adam . . .
Adam . . . sorry, I can't get his full name out without choking up.
Choking? Did I say choking? Well, that's a natural transition back to the
brothers Gramatica. More specifically, Martin, the newest New England
I probably should give Martin Gramatica the benefit of the doubt.
He arguably deserves the benefit of the doubt. He did, after all, set a
Tampa Bay record for field goals (32) and points (128) in 2002 while
helping the Bucs win Super Bowl XXXVII. In seven playoff games during his
nearly six seasons in Tampa, Gramatica made 11 of 12 field goals and all 15
of his PATs. After scoring 108 points as a rookie in 1999, he was selected
for the Pro Bowl in 2000. In that year, as well as 2002, his average
kickoff distance exceeded 64 yards.
Despite all that, I have my doubts about the benefit to the Patriots of
replacing a guy who's likely to wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame --
Adam Vinatieri -- with a guy who spent last year out of football while
recuperating from surgery to repair two abdominal tears.
And it's not as if Gramatica was the second coming of Jan Stenerud before he
got hurt.
It supposedly was the injury to his abdomen that caused Gramatica to go from
being "Automatica" -- he made 110 of 134 field-goal attempts his first four
years with Tampa Bay, after being drafted by the Bucs in the third round
out of Kansas State in 1999 -- to "Erratica," making just 16 of 26 for the
Bucs in 2003, and 11 of 19 in 2004, when he was waived late in the season
and picked up by the Colts, who used him to handle kickoffs.
The Bucs ran out of patience with Gramatica after he missed three field
goals in a game at Carolina, including a 37-yarder with 1:48 remaining that
would have given Tampa Bay the lead in a game they wound up losing. At that
point, he had missed seven of his last nine 3-point tries.
"[The abdominal injury] has been a problem for him for about 2 1/2 years,"
Bill Gramatica told a Tampa newspaper last June, after his older brother
underwent surgery. "But you've never heard Martin complain, and he never
used it as an excuse."
What both brothers have been throughout their pro careers is Overly
Born in Argentina, the Gramatica brothers celebrate field goals as if they
were soccer goals.
Their excessively enthusiastic antics often rubbed opponents the wrong way.
Particularly punter Todd Sauerbrun, with whom Martin had a running feud when
Sauerbrun was kicking for Carolina.
Patriots' fans most recent memory of Sauerbrun should be from the playoff
game against Denver in January, when he tackled New England kick returner
Ellis Hobbs, forcing a fumble that set up a touchdown for the Broncos.
Sauerbrun's dislike for the brothers Gramatica dates back to 2002, when he
took exception to the way Martin celebrated each of four field goals --
especially the 47-yard, game-winner with five seconds to play -- he kicked
for the Bucs in a 12-9 victory over the Panthers.
"The guy needs to act like he's been there before," Sauerbrun said. "He
really needs to chill out, plain and simple."
The ill feelings between the two were exacerbated when the youngest
Gramatica brother, Santiago, taunted Sauerbrun outside the Carolina locker
room later that season after the Bucs beat the Panthers a second time.
"That kid is as big of an idiot as his brother," Sauerbrun said then. "And
I'm sure his other brother is, too. It goes right down the line."
Brother Bill's reputation wasn't exactly enhanced when he wound up on the
injured reserve list after tearing ligaments and cartilage in his knee
celebrating that field goal against the Giants his rookie year.
As Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre said to Sports Illustrated
writer Peter King: "If our kicker ever hurt himself like that, I'd go over
and boot him right in the [butt.]"
Bill now is out of the NFL, after three seasons kicking for the Cardinals.
It's not as if the Patriots are handing Vinatieri's job to 30-year-old
Martin Gramatica. They're all but certain to bring in at least one young
kicker, although he won't necessarily be a draftee.
Lest we forget, Vinatieri was signed by New England as a free agent in 1996
after kicking for the Amsterdam Admirals of the World League of American
Football following his graduation from South Dakota State.
Bill Parcells, who was coaching the Pats at the time, is not believed to
have jumped into the air, pumping his fist, at the signing.
Hopefully, Bill Gramatica didn't either, when he heard the news about his
brother coming to New England.
Certainly, Patriots fans didn't.
jdon...@projo.com / (401) 277-7340


Apr 9, 2006, 9:28:28 AM4/9/06

stananger wrote:
> Jim Donaldson: Gramatica signing is no reason for Patriots fans to celebrate
> 01:00 AM EDT on Sunday, April 9, 2006
> Let me guess . . . when you heard the Patriots had signed kicker Martin
> Gramatica, you leaped into the air, pumping your fist in celebration.

I didn't leap; I didn't sag. Show me, that's all. I'm patient, I'm
open to be shown when it counts, on the field, not in the minds and off
of the wagging tongues of nay sayers.

We know the guy had a great career until something drastic happened to
him. If somebody doubts that the "something" was the abdominal injury
then please specify. And "He sucks" is not specifying. We know that
Adam sucked when he hurt his back, and we know that Wilile sucked when
he hurt his back. They got better. Can Gramatica get better, or is
there some law that says he can't?

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