Will Adam Vinatieri make the Hall of Fame? He has to retire first
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – He has the fat resume that includes a pair of Super Bowl-winning kicks and kicks through a blinding snowstorm in the legendary “Tuck Game” that launched New England’s dynasty and a longevity he never imagined and few can match.
It’s a resume that’s been 21 years in the making and still under construction with the Indianapolis Colts.
It’s a resume that one day undoubtedly will serve as Adam Vinatieri’s front-door key to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“No brainer. No brainer,” Chuck Pagano said. “Bunch of damn records.”
But there’s a major obstacle blocking Vinatieri’s path to following former Ben Davis High School kicker Morten Andersen to Canton, Ohio.
“I don’t think he’s anywhere near retirement either,” Pagano said. “He’s going to kick until he’s 50.”
Probably not, but Pagano’s point was clear.
Vinatieri is 44 and entering his 22nd season, and his right leg is showing no signs of losing its thunder. Over the past four seasons, he’s knocked down 117-of-129 field-goal attempts (90.7 percent), including 18-of-23 from at least 50 yards.
So while virtually everyone agrees Vinatieri is a lock to wind up in Canton, he’s first got to walk away from the NFL. Then, per Hall of Fame guidelines, there’s a five-year waiting period for him to be eligible for consideration.
“In a perfect world, I’ll do this for two more years. We’ll see,” Vinatieri said. “If I can get through this season and have a productive season and they want me back, why not keep going?”
He’s entering the final year of the two-year, $6 million deal the team gave him last offseason – the contentiousness of negotiations with then-general manager Ryan Grigson irritated Vinatieri – and, barring slippage, it’s hard to imagine owner Jim Irsay and GM Chris Ballard not retaining Vinatieri.
But if the Colts decide it’s time to go younger at the position, Vinatieri will consider his options.
“I would love to finish my career here; 100 percent,” he said. “But if it’s a situation where, hey, I need 40 points (to break Andersen’s all-time record) and they don’t want me back and somebody else wants me, why not?
“I hope it happens here.”
Vinatieri also hopes recent activity is a preview of what’s to come. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014 included Ray Guy, who was presented by the Seniors Committee and became the first punter inducted. Saturday, Andersen joined Jan Stenerud as the only pure kickers to be enshrined.
“Position-wise it’s been a little more difficult,” Vinatieri said of specialists gaining entry, “but maybe that’s changing a bit. Maybe (Andersen) opens the doors for a few other guys that are really deserving.”
At the head of the list is Vinatieri. And when pressed on it, he’ll admit he’s allowed himself to consider the possibility of it becoming a reality.
“I would lie to you if I said I didn’t think about it or think that would be an awesome experience,” he said. “If I’m fortunate enough that people talk about me like that, that’s a huge honor.
“But I don’t want to think about it yet. I want to keep writing the chapters of my book and put an exclamation point on the end of that thing. There’s so much to do in the here and now.”
There’s motivation to keep kicking and piling up the points.
No one should question Vinatieri’s team-first mindset. Talk to him at any length and you’ve got to get past the team/teammates issue before he’ll reluctantly allow the discussion to focus on Adam Vinatieri.
He’s proud of the four Super Bowl championship rings – three with Patriots, one with the Colts. He’s contributed to 221 victories, including the postseason, an NFL record.
But Vinatieri also is driven on an individual level.
Andersen’s main bargaining chip for entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was his 2,544 career points, an all-time record. Vinatieri currently sits No. 3 with 2,378. He needs 57 points to pass Gary Anderson (2,434) and 167 to eclipse Andersen.
At his career per-game scoring average, Vinatieri needs 23 games to supplant Andersen.
And, yes, that’s on his radar. How could it not be?
“I’m not usually a guy about selfish statistics and points and all that stuff,” he said, “but when you get that close . . .”
“It’s always about team success,” Vinatieri continued. “That’s why you do this. But the nice thing about team success for me is if the team is successful, I get my points, too.
Along with bearing down on Andersen’s all-time scoring mark, Vinatieri also is within reach of other milestones:
- He ranks 3rd all-time with 530 made field goals. He needs 9 to pass Anderson and 36 to break Andersen’s record.
- His 629 attempts rank 4th, 11 shy of George Blanda, 44 shy of Anderson and 81 shy of Andersen’s career mark.
- He’s entering his 22nd season. Only Blanda (26 years), Andersen (25), Anderson (23) and John Carney (23) stuck around longer.
- At 44, he’s the oldest player to lace ‘em up for the Colts and one of only 10 players since 1950 to play at that age.
“Hopefully when I’m done and gone and ride off into the sunset, there’s enough people out there who remember some big kicks and some championship moments and the kick in the snow, things like that,” Vinatieri said. “If you play long enough, there are amazing moments, team moments, too. I remember the Green Bay game when we were without Chuck.
“I really take a lot of pride in still being around. I would never have thought a 22-year old snot-nosed kid coming out of South Dakota would have done this. I was hoping I could make it on a team. Then I was hoping I could make it on a team for a couple of years, get a headstart on life.
“If anything, (the career) shows perseverance and persistence and maybe just down-home stubbornness. Not giving up.”