Adam Vinatieri: It’s been an interesting year

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 03: Adam Vinatieri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts walks off the field after missing a field goal in the fourth quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 3, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This isn’t how Adam Vinatieri envisioned his 24th NFL season unfolding.

“Yeah,’’ he said Thursday, “personally, it’s been an interesting year to say the least.’’

Interesting. That’s one word for it.

As the Indianapolis Colts head into the second half of the season – it starts Sunday against Miami in Lucas Oil Stadium – they do so with their veteran placekicker dealing with the worst start of his career. Vinatieri has missed 10 kicks – five field goals, five PATs – including a potential game-winning 43-yard attempt with 1:14 remaining at Pittsburgh that enabled the Steelers to escape with a 26-24 victory. He also had a PAT blocked in the game.

How to cure what’s ailing him?

“Just go out and practice and work on your craft,’’ he said. “Not think too much about the other stuff.

“I think all of us go one game at a time. You can’t look too far in the future or too far behind. You go through the game film this last week . . . you put it to bed.’’

What did Vinatieri glean from watching video of the errant 43-yarder?

“Lots of things could have been different,’’ he said. “It’s football. Unfortunately, that kick didn’t go through. It cost (us). It was the last play of the game.

“Unfortunately, there’s lots of things that went wrong in that game and that kick was one of them.’’

Everyone has seen the replay. The delivery from long-snapper Luke Rhodes to holder Rigoberto Sanchez resulted in Sanchez placing the football with the laces facing Vinatieri. Sanchez actually made it a tad worse by spinning the football slightly towards Vinatieri, leaving the laces straight at him.

“No excuses. I find a way to make ‘em,’’ Vinatieri said, although he added, “it’s a difficult kick.’’

Rhodes and Sanchez “are awesome,’’ he said. “Those guys are as good as any guys I’ve ever played with. I have all the confidence in the world in them.

“I’ll take that on me. I’ve got to make it.’’

Vinatieri said he doesn’t normally practice kicking with the laces facing him since it’s such a rarity. He’s attempted more than 1,700 kicks in his career, including the playoffs, and couldn’t recall one that required him to make such direct contact with the laces.

Just in case the improbable happens again, Vinatieri attempted a handful of those kicks Wednesday.

How’d it go?

“The ball hooked left a lot,’’ he said with a smile.

Once he adjusted, the kicks were more effective.

But getting back to his season in general, it’s been one of the more frustrating for the NFL’s all-time leading scorer.

It began with Vinatieri missing practice time during the preseason because of an injury to his left knee, which obviously influenced his plant leg.

“That kind of got me off to a little bit of a slow start,’’ he said.

Vinatieri missed three kicks in the season-opening 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers: 46- and 29-yard field goal attempts and a PAT. In the week 2 win at Tennessee, he misfired on a pair of PATs.

“No excuses,’’ he said. “Just didn’t hit the ball well at the beginning. When you have a handful of misses early in the year, they’re part of your stats. They don’t go away.’’

In games 3-7, he converted 10-of-12 field goal attempts – one of the misses was a 57-yarder against Oakland – and 11-of-12 PATs.

“I feel like it’s been an up-and-down year for sure,’’ he said.

It’s believed Vinatieri still is dealing with an issue with his left knee, but he refused to use it as an excuse for his struggles.

“It’s OK,’’ he said. “It’s all right. I’m all right.’’

Chris Ballard brought in six kickers for tryouts following Vinatieri’s week 2 struggles, but the team has shown no inclination to make a change.

“No, I have not had a discussion with Chris about that,’’ Frank Reich said earlier this week. “This is the NFL. We all know that we are getting measured all the time.

“I have not discussed that with Chris as far as, ‘Hey, how  much or how little for each one of us?’ Right now it’s full-speed ahead.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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