INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The longer Adam Vinatieri talked about what was and what’s to come, the more a defiant tone bubbled to the surface.
The most decorated kicker in NFL history is coming off one of the worst games of his 386-game career. He missed a PAT and 46- and 29-yard field goals in the Indianapolis Colts’ 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
After the game, he shouldered the blame for his “lousy game.’’
Four days later, it was clear Vinatieri had moved on.
“Nothing’s changed,’’ he said Thursday. “We’re moving on to Tennessee, kind of putting last week behind us.’’
But let’s be clear about one thing: Vinatieri, one of just four players in NFL history to play at age 46, doesn’t appreciate the mounting doubt regarding his ability to handle his kicking duties. He’s in his 24th season and holds NFL records for points (2,604) and made field goals (583). He also holds league marks with 20 seasons of at least 100 points and consecutive made field goals (44).
A nerve was hit when a reporter asked if Vinatieri is kicking for his job. A team generally has little tolerance when its kicker struggles.
“You’ve playing for your job every single day of your life,’’ Vinatieri said. “You guys are trying to make this into something. Write whatever you want. I think every single day every person is playing for their job. Yeah.’’
Sounds like you’re embracing the challenge?
“Twenty-four years, bub,’’ he replied.
But there’s no question Vinatieri is dealing with a slight bump in his career, and it’s more than the opener against the Chargers. In the Colts’ 31-13 loss in the second round of the playoffs in January, he missed a 23-yard field-goal attempt – the shortest miss of his career – and another PAT.
Heading into week 17 of ’18 against the Titans in Nashville, Vinatieri had converted 915-of-932 PATs, including all 66 in the postseason. He’s now missed a PAT in three of his last four games. And that includes his first playoff miss against the Chiefs.
While there are mumblings outside the team’s West 56th Street headquarters, the Colts have their kicker’s back.
“No worries,’’ Frank Reich said once, twice, at least three times. “Obviously Adam didn’t have his best day, but I’ll just keep putting into context . . . this guy is an elite, elite player. Not just was. I see it every day in practice that he kicks.’’
Rigoberto Sanchez, Vinatieri’s holder, stood outside the gathering of media that encircled Vinatieri’s cubicle. He smiled when asked for a reaction to the concern over the Colts’ career leader in every meaningful kicking category.
“I feel like nobody in the building is concerned about Adam,’’ Sanchez said. “I mean, really? He’s done it for a long time. We know his capabilities and he knows his capabilities.
“People miss. It was just one of those off days for him. I know Vinny. He’s going to come back and be great.’’
That starts Sunday in Nashville.
“I’m more confident than ever,’’ Sanchez said. “He’s got that chip on his shoulder all the time. He’s had it for 24 years.
“Vinny will be all right.’’
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