INDIANAPOLIS — Adam Vinatieri has warmed up to those chilly New England receptions.
Sometimes, he hears cheers. Sometimes, he hears boos.
It’s all part of life as an ex-Pat in one of football’s fiercest rivalries — even for a kicker who signed with the Colts eight years ago.
“It’s the (Red) Sox-Yankees, if you will, that kind of thing where I think both teams respect each other and know what comes to the table,” Vinatieri said.
The story lines in this annual series have traditionally started and ended with the quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and now Andrew Luck.
But the ties run so much deeper, especially given Indianapolis’ ever-expanding list of former Patriots.
In addition to Vinatieri, there’s cornerback Darius Butler, who may replace injured starter Greg Toler in Saturday night’s playoff game, with the winner advancing to the AFC championship game. Butler was New England’s second-round pick in 2009, and since joining the Colts in September 2012, he’s intercepted eight passes and returned three for scores.
“You’ve always got something to prove,” said Butler, who was cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp in 2011. “And it’s always special when you’re facing a former team.”
Safety Sergio Brown spent two seasons with New England (12-4) before landing with Indy last season, too. If LaRon Landry doesn’t clear the concussion protocol before kickoff, the special teams standout could be starting, too.
And on Monday, the Colts added another New England fan favorite — receiver Deion Branch, the Super Bowl MVP in the Patriots’ last title run. Saturday will be his first trip to New England’s visiting locker room, and Branch isn’t entirely sure about how he’ll be treated by the fans who warmly embraced him for so many years.