Legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri told me Tuesday he wants to return for a 25th NFL season, but quarantine has slowed down his rehab following knee surgery. Not certain he’ll be healed up by the start of the season, but he’s trying. Vinatieri, 47, is a free agent.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 29, 2020
Vinatieri had season-ending surgery in December on his left knee (plant leg) that included removing a chunk of his patellar tendon, fixing his meniscus and other cleanup. Normally a 6-month recovery, but rehab at home -- no gym, physical therapist, etc. -- is an added challenge. https://t.co/9p1rapTTEA— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 29, 2020
The question though is with which potential NFL team.
The 47 year old kicker struggled this past season for the Colts—at least partially because of injuries, converting just 17 of his 25 field goal attempts (68.0%) and a mere 22 of 28 (78.6%) of his extra point attempts.
After Week 13, Vinatieri was eventually shut down with a season-ending knee injury.
One could make the strong argument that had Vinatieri been like his former reliable self, the Colts could’ve had wins in Week 1 (at Chargers), Week 9 (at Steelers), and at least sent Week 10 (Miami) to a potential overtime.
No one doubts that Vinatieri is a future Hall of Famer, who’s the greatest player at his position of all-time—as a 4x Super Bowl Champion (including several game-winning kicks), 3x First-Team All-Pro, 3x Pro Bowler, and the NFL’s all-time scoring leader (2,673 career points).
At one point, he also made 44 consecutive field goals.
That being said, he’s played 24 NFL seasons—is closer to 50 than 40 (which is a dinosaur for the NFL), and it’s quite possible that his body is finally breaking down from both age and the wear-and-tear of kicking so many footballs for such a long, long time in the NFL.
Father time remains undefeated, and it’s a fair question whether he’s finally caught up with Vinatieri—who up to the last season or so had aged like a fine wine—as still one of the better kickers in football. The Colts have valued not only his consistency, reliability, and production but also his veteran leadership in their locker room throughout the years.
Nevertheless, the Colts appear to be willing to make the transition to 2nd-year kicker Chase McLaughlin, who impressed in relief of Vinatieri last season during 4 starts, converting 5 of 6 of his field goal attempts (83.3%) and all 11 of his extra point attempts.
He’ll have competition this offseason though, as the Colts signed a top rookie kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship out of Georgia, as an undrafted free agent—who should challenge McLaughlin for the starting job. Blankenship won the 2019 Lou Groza Award (as the nation’s top placekicker), was a consensus First-Team All-American, and was awarded First-Team All-SEC honors this past season.
While the Colts may not state it publicly (and really don’t have to since Vinatieri is a free agent), it seems much more likely than not that his illustrious tenure in Indianapolis has finally come to an end—given the two promising young kickers currently competing for his old job.