Ageless Anderson Considers Future

Gary Anderson

Even before Gary Anderson kicked his game-winning 53-yard field goal Saturday, the 43-year old was thinking about another year as a Viking.

Gary Anderson was enjoying the peace and quite of a fishing trip in Colorado when Mike Tice put out an SOS for kicking help after the Vikings' loss to Buffalo in Week 2.

Doug Brien, the man who was not only supposed to replace Anderson but also handle kickoffs, had just missed two extra-point attempts in an overtime defeat and Tice wanted his old, reliable buddy back.

The NFL's all-time scoring leader put down his fishing gear and rejoined the Vikings. A day later, at an impromptu press conference, Anderson heard the question over and over again.

Basically, it went something like this. "How far of a kick is too far?" About to begin his 21st season and at 43 the oldest player in the NFL and the same age as Tice, the question was relevant. Still, the look on Anderson's face said "can't we change the subject?"

One of the class acts in life, let alone the NFL, Anderson answered each time. Little did he know approximately 14 weeks later he would get to respond to that question with his right leg.

With 17 seconds left in the Vikings' game against Miami, Anderson was sent onto the Metrodome field to attempt a 53-yard field. His line-drive kick did not clear the uprights with much, if any room, to spare. Nonetheless, it cleared, giving the Vikings a 20-17 victory. It was Anderson's longest field goal since 1998.

"I knew with 53 yards I am going to have to give it all I've got," said Anderson, who entered the Vikings' season finale having made 17 of 21 field-goal attempts and 31 of 32 extra points. "And, of course, when you are kicking a kick from that distance, everything has to be perfect. The snap was great, the hold was great, I gave it all I've got. There's a few people out there that doubt us old-timers, so I just threw that one in for everybody."

A few days before his heroics, Anderson had been asked if he was glad he answered Tice's call for help. The truth is Anderson never wanted to leave the Vikings, but Tice decided he wanted to carry one player to handle kickoffs — something Anderson does not do — and field goals.

Anderson could have found work elsewhere but had no interest in uprooting his family from Minnesota.

"I'm very pleased I came back," he said. "Obviously, I would have liked the team to have won a lot more games, but that hasn't happened. I do what I always do, try to do my job and help us win."

Anderson said the time away from the game neither helped nor hurt him: "Not really. I always try to keep myself in shape. You would like to have a couple of preseason games, but that didn't happen. For me, I am a very natural kicker and don't kick at all during the offseason. Most guys are amazed when they hear that. Other kickers kick all the time. At least a couple of times a week. For me, it's usually pretty easy to pick right up."

That said, Anderson is hoping to be able to pick up his kicking in training camp next season and not have to wait until the Vikings get desperate.

"I've talked with Mike (Tice) about next season," he said. "I feel fantastic. That's always the only hesitant part for me whenever I think about retiring. Most guys retire because they have to retire. Their bodies tell them every morning, ‘You can't do this anymore.' But I feel great. I'm kicking the ball as well as I ever have. I'm ready to go some more."

And if this it for Anderson?

"I have been preparing myself to hang up the cleats for quite a while and I'm very realistic," he said. "Obviously, I have been blessed to play as long as I have. At some point, I'm going to have to (retire). I'm not going to be one of those guys who hangs around to kick a few games for this team and that team. When I'm done, I'm done."

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