Colts coach Frank Reich’s confidence in Vinatieri still strong: ‘Adam’s our kicker’

Adam Vinatieri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park on September 08, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In case there was any doubt, Frank Reich cleared the air.

No, his confidence in Adam Vinatieri isn’t wavering.

No, Vinatieri’s struggles won’t impact any in-game decisions.

No, he has no plans of replacing the greatest kicker in NFL history.

Period.

“I know there’s been a lot of discussion about Adam,’’ Reich said during his Monday conference call. “Just want to make this clear: Adam’s our kicker. We have zero concerns.

“He’s not only our kicker, he’s an instrumental leader on our team. When we talk about toughness and what we’re all about as a team and a program, there’s probably no one who epitomizes that more than Adam.

“Just wanted to make that clear.’’

That was Reich’s stance after Vinatieri opened his 24th season by spraying three kicks in the 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He missed a PAT along with 46- and 29-yard field goals. It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out the impact of the lost 7 points.

And that stance obviously didn’t change after Vinatieri endured yet another forgettable afternoon in Sunday’s 19-17 win at Tennessee. He went 1-for-3 on PATs, and now has missed five in his last five games, including the postseason.

Vinatieri declined to talk with the media following the Titans game, which was unusual. He told reporters he would talk Monday, which isn’t normally an access day for players. That heightened speculation he was considering retirement after 387 games, a slew of NFL and team kicking records and four world championships.

Reich admitted he met with Vinatieri Monday, but declined to share their conversation.

“That’s a private conversation there,’’ he said. “No need to go into that and I know Adam will catch up with you guys (Tuesday).’’

Reich’s support is in contrast to owner Jim Irsay who admitted after the game, “Of course there’s a concern. I can’t lie to you guys. This league, it’s professional football. We all have to produce.’’

Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have established a high standard for everyone to meet, or exceed. Vinatieri would be the first two admit he’s fallen short thus far: 1-of-3 on field goals, 2-of-5 on PATs.

The bottom line: all players are not treated the same.

“We all understand there are high standards,’’ Reich said, “but to say that they are equally applied to all people is not realistic, right? The more games a guy has played, the more he’s done, you get a little more latitude.

“It would be the same thing with a coach. As a second-year coach, I’m not going to get as much latitude as a guy who’s been a 20-year coach and won a hundred games. That’s just natural.’’

But that fact remains the Colts’ kicker is mired in a semi-lengthy funk. He’s missed seven kicks in the last three games.

“Adam will figure it out,’’ Reich said. “We have confidence and belief that he will figure it out.

“Has it been two weeks of subpar? Yes. Is it catastrophic? No. To me it’s far from catastrophic. This is the NFL. Some of the most elite players that I’ve ever seen or played with or coached, I’ve seen them have two bad games back-to-back.’’

Vinatieri was bothered by swelling in his left knee during the preseason that forced him to miss practice time, and continues to receive treatment for it. But Reich doesn’t believe that is impacting his kicking.

“I don’t see that as an issue,’’ he said. “I saw him kick on Wednesday and on Friday and physically he’s still a powerhouse.’’

In fact, Reich mentioned he was hoping the Colts needed Vinatieri to convert a 60-yarder to beat the Titans Sunday. He knocked down 64- and 60-yarders in practice last week.

“There’s nobody I’d trust more than I would trust Adam Vinatieri,’’ he said. “Doesn’t mean he’s going to make every kick. Shoot, he’s human. The greatest players at every position make mistakes; they throw interceptions.

“We’re all human, but still no one I’d trust more.’’

Finally, Reich was evasive when asked if the Colts might bring in kickers for workouts this week.

“Chris handles all of that stuff,’’ he said.

Leonard dealing with concussion

The status of linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Pierre Desir for Sunday’s home opener with the Atlanta Falcons is in doubt.

Leonard experienced concussion symptoms following the Titans game and is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Desir left the game early in the third quarter with an injury to his right knee. It’s reportedly a bone bruise.

Reich wasn’t ready to “throw (Desir) into a category just yet. We’ll see how things develop over the next couple of days and hopefully he responds well.’’

Decision coming on Kelly

Quarterback Chad Kelly is eligible to come off the reserve/suspended list, and a decision is forthcoming in the next few days, according to Reich.

The team must add him to the 53-player active roster or waive him with the intention of adding him to the practice squad. The latter scenario means every other team gets an opportunity to claim him.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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