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Anderson returns to old stomping grounds

Jerry DiPaola

Record-setting kicker Gary Anderson has been all over the world in search of the great fly-fishing spots, but there’s one on the Frying Pan River, near Aspen, Colo., that beats them all.

It was there that Anderson snared two jobs, along with some nice-looking rainbow trout. Talk about going from the Frying Pan into the fire.

Need a kicker• Keep Anderson’s telephone number handy; just be aware that you might get his voice mail, if he’s already thrown his line in the water.

That’s what Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice did this year and last in desperate attempts to find a kicker. Anderson said he took both calls while fishing the same spot on the river. “It’s a good spot,” he said.

Anderson, the oldest player in the NFL at 44, joined the Titans on Sept. 11 after Joe Nedney was placed on the injured reserve list with a torn ACL in his knee. Anderson did the same last year when the Vikings called one game into the season.

Training camp?

“I kind of like this program,” Anderson said. “After 20 years, you shouldn’t have to go training camp.”

Actually, Anderson is in his 22nd NFL season. It all started in 1982 when former Steelers coach Chuck Noll scooped him off the waiver wire after the Buffalo Bills released him. Anderson remained the Steelers’ kicker for the next 13 seasons. He’ll come into Heinz Field with the Titans on Sunday to play the Steelers, holding NFL all-time records for points (2,233) and field goals (496).

After he left the Steelers following the 1994 season at the end of a contract dispute with management, Anderson spent two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, one with the San Francisco 49ers and the past five with the Vikings.

The Vikings wanted to cut ties with Anderson after the 2001 season, saying his range was slipping and his field goal attempts lacked the desired height. But replacement Doug Brien kicked poorly last year, and Anderson – twice the age of some Vikings teammates — was back on the roster after two games.

He signed a one-year deal and believed his career ended when the season did. But he felt fine physically, and decided not to file retirement papers with the league.

When the Titans called, Anderson initially said no because his life had moved beyond football. Anderson has become seriously involved with the fly-fishing business through a Pittsburgh-based company called Frontiers that arranges fishing trips to several world-wide destinations. He also wasn’t eager to leave his sons Austin, 14, and Douglas, 12, who attend school in Minneapolis.

“My two boys were the biggest reason,” said Anderson, who helps coach Douglas’ football team.

Fisher was persistent, however, eventually agreeing to allow Anderson to fly back to Minneapolis after every game to spend a day or two with his family. “It seems to be that one perfect fit,” Anderson said.

Anderson admitted to being nervous in his Titans tryout, because he had kicked only once since the end of the 2002 season and that was one day this year with his youngest son. “I’m the only guy who doesn’t ever kick in the offseason,” he said. “I’ve done that since Day 1 in Pittsburgh.”

Anderson said he got that idea from Steelers neurological surgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon.


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