Colts’ Adam Vinatieri: ‘Not looking to hang ‘em up anytime soon’

Pat McAfee #1 of the Indianapolis Colts congratulates Adam Vinatieri #4 after making a field goal in the first quarter on October 8, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – He’s back with a one-year contract, but Adam Vinatieri isn’t placing a limitation on an NFL career that simply won’t end.

He’s at 23 seasons. And counting.

“I guess the way I look at it is every year I will re-evaluate and if my body’s feeling good, I’m kicking well and our team is on the striking distance or capable of making playoff runs, I love it as much today as when I started 23 years ago,’’ Vinatieri said after signing a one-year, $3.625 million contract to remain with the Indianapolis Colts.

“I’m not looking to hang ‘em up anytime soon unless something happens that (it) needs to be that way.’’

So, he’ll play on, at least for one more season, his 13th with the Colts and at age 45.

Consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio remains on pause.

It’s worth remembering Vinatieri’s NFL journey began in 1996 as an anxious rookie with the New England Patriots. He was a nondescript kicker at South Dakota State – he converted just 27-of-53 field-goal attempts – who got his foot in the door while with Amsterdam in the World League.

At no point did Vinatieri envision himself authoring such a long, decorated career. He needs 58 points to surpass Morten Andersen’s all-time NFL record (2,544). He’s been part of four Super Bowl championships: three with the Patriots, one with the Colts. He’s just the fifth player in league history to play 23 seasons, joining George Blanda (26), Andersen (25), Gary Anderson (23) and John Carney (23).

“I’d be lying to you if I told you I thought I’d play 23 years in the league or more,’’ Vinatieri said. “I knew that the league normal was three-point-some-years.

“Honestly, I just tried to get in the league, get a head start on life, maybe pay off some school bills and move forward.’’

As players were cleaning out their lockers Jan. 1, general manager Chris Ballard made certain to chat with Vinatieri, one of the Colts’ free-agents-to-be.

“We want you back, if that’s what you want,’’ Ballard said.

That piqued Vinatieri’s interest.

Yes, he had every intention of extending his career. And yes, his preference was to do so in Indy. Central Indiana is home is the Vinatieri family: Valerie and children A.J., Gabriel and Allison.

After Ballard finished his unique coaching search and brought in Frank Reich to run the team, he turned his attention to Vinatieri. This contract, Vinatieri conceded with a laugh, was much easier than the two-year, $6 million deal he finally was offered from previous general manager Ryan Grigson.

“I’m ecstatic to come back and put a helmet on that has a horseshoe on it,’’ he said.

In a team release, Ballard described Vinatieri as “one of the best players in NFL history . . . a consummate pro and a key leader in our locker room.’’

The overall direction of the franchise intrigued Vinatieri. While it’s clear the pursuit of Andersen’s scoring mark motivates him, so does the possibility of further postseason success, perhaps even another Super Bowl ring.

“It made me want that much more to come back and play for the Colts knowing we were moving in the right direction,’’ he said.

That’s the overriding reason Vinatieri refuses to place limits on his career. Although the Colts bottomed out last season at 4-12, a quick turnaround is possible if Andrew Luck returns to the huddle and Ballard and Reich are able to maximize their offseason personnel opportunities.

“If our team is a team that is a contender, to continue to make playoffs, get a chance to play in another Super Bowl, that is a huge, huge driving factor for me,’’ Vinatieri said.

So is serving as a voice of experience in the locker room. Over 22 seasons, Vinatieri has seen virtually every possible situation.

His status in the locker room was reinforced Thursday while he was at the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance complex to sign his contract. He bumped into one of his young teammates.

“One of the young guys in the locker room today said, ‘Hey, how’s the kids and the grandkids?’’’ Vinatieri said with a laugh. “(We) laughed about it, but I do realize I’m older than most of my teammates’ parents. I take that as a badge of honor in that I can help some of the young guys, not only with football stuff but with life things, too.

“I’ve gone through a lot of the things they may have questions on . . . I enjoy the father-figure role. It might even be grandpa for some of them.’’

That’s a role Vinatieri might embrace for at least another couple of seasons.

“I guess I’ll take it one year at a time and see where it ends up,’’ he said. “I would anticipate if I could stay healthy and be productive, I can anticipate catching up to Morten.’’

At Vinatieri’s current pace, he’ll surpass Andersen by midseason.

“At the end of the year, I’ll be 46,’’ he added. “I’m not putting anything out of reach and saying, ‘No way’ or ‘For sure.’

“I just want to help our team be as good as possible this year. If everything works out well, hopefully we’ll be having this conversation next year.’’

Incentive included

Vinatieri’s one-year contract includes a $250,000 incentive for converting 88 percent of his field goal attempts. His previous two-year deal included a $500,000 bonus for knocking down 90 percent of his attempts.

Last year’s bonus essentially was buried in a Buffalo blizzard. Vinatieri converted 21-of-22 attempts through the first 12 games – including 20 straight – before missing 33- and 43-yarders against the Bills in a snowstorm. Two weeks later in inclement weather in Baltimore, he had a 38-yarder blocked and saw a 60-yard attempt fall short.

Over the last five seasons, Vinatieri has converted 146-of-163 attempts (89.6 percent).

“Assuming we’re not playing in crazy Buffalo blizzards and stuff like that, maybe we’ll hit this incentive this year,’’ he said.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.