INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For the first time in more than a decade, Adam Vinatieri won’t kick for the Indianapolis Colts because of an injury.
Whether he ever kicks for them again remains uncertain.
The most decorated kicker in NFL and team history has been ruled out of Sunday’s road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An injury to Vinatieri’s left knee that first surfaced during training camp recently flared up and rookie Chase McLaughlin, claimed off waivers from San Francisco, will handle the kicking duties against the Bucs.
Frank Reich made the announcement Friday and, somewhat surprisingly considering the injury and time of the season, said placing Vinatieri on the injured reserve list “at this point . . . has not been discussed.
“It’s just kind of a week-to-week thing. We’ll just monitor it and see how it responds. That will be a week-to-week deal.’’
Vinatieri underwent an MRI on the knee this week. He was asked whether the injury will keep him from kicking again this season.
“I don’t have an answer for you on that,’’ he said. “This is just a day at a time.
“We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and the next day and the next day.’’
Did he believe IR was a possibility?
“I haven’t gotten that far yet, to be honest with you,’’ Vinatieri said. “I’m just going to see what the docs say and see what we’re doing and treat the heck out of it every single day and see what we can come up with.’’
Vinatieri, who turns 47 Dec. 28, has been the Colts’ placekicker since joining them as an unrestricted free agent during the 2006 offseason. He’s handled 918 kicks – 394 field-goal attempts, 524 PATs – during the regular season.
Only twice has Vinatieri missed time because of an injury.
He missed three games with ankle and groin issues in 2006. Martin Gramatica took over and converted his only field-goal attempt and all 9 PATs.
In 2009, Vinatieri underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee that forced him to miss 10 regular-season games and all three postseason games. Matt Stover stepped in and was 15-of-18 on field goals and 40-for-40 on PATs.
The last game Vinatieri missed because of injury: Feb. 7, 2010. That was the Colts’ 31-17 Super Bowl XLIV loss to New Orleans.
The knee injury has bothered Vinatieri throughout the season, resulting in him receiving constant treatment. It flared up last week prior to the Tennessee game. In the game, Vinatieri converted a 28-yard field goal and pushed a 55-yarder wide left. But he had a 53-yarder deflected at the line of scrimmage and a 46-yarder with 5 minutes remaining blocked and returned for a touchdown.
There was no consideration given to not attempting the long field goals because of Vinatieri’s condition.
“No, there wasn’t,’’ Reich said. “When it flared up early it was like, ‘Is this a concern?’ ‘No, it’s not a concern at the moment.’ You’re game-day, so the adrenalin is flowing.
“Then always when we get in that moment (during a game), I am always communicating with Bubba (Ventrone, special teams coordinator). How do we feel when I know it is going to be in that 50 (yard) range. We are always talking that through. So I was confident in those kicks.’’
Wednesday was the first time Vinatieri appeared on the injury report – he was limited – despite dealing with the knee much of the season.
At some point during the season, Reich realized his veteran placekicker wasn’t at 100 percent. But he remained confident Vinatieri could be effective, although this season is the worst of Vinatieri’s 24-year career. He’s missed a league-high 14 picks (eight field goals, six PATs) and his 68.0 percent accuracy (17-of-25) is easily his worst ever.
Several of Vinatieri’s misses have been critical for a team that sits at 6-6 with fading playoff hopes.
He missed 46- and 29-yard field goal attempts and one PAT in the opening 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. In the 26-24 loss at Pittsburgh, Vinatieri pulled a 43-yard attempt wide left – that was the “laces’’ kick – with 1:14 remaining and had a PAT blocked. And in the 16-12 loss to Miami, he converted 25- and 39-yard field goals, but missed a PAT that impacted how the Colts approached a drive at the end of the game.
On the flip side, it was Vinatieri’s 51-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining that delivered a 15-13 win over Denver. He also hit 55- and 45-yarders that game while missing a 45-yard attempt.
“Not really on the injury report or anything, but at his 20-some years, I’m sure it is bothering him,’’ Reich said. “I don’t hear that stuff. I am sure it is factoring . . . it is your plant leg and the number of times you kick.
“But Adam is a tough guy and I just think he has been grinding through it.’’
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