INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s about team. It’s about winning games and chasing Super Bowls.
To that end, it’s about the individual doing his job to the help ensure games are won and championships are possible.
So Adam Vinatieri continues to peel pages from a notepad his wife, Valerie, provided. Consider it a Countdown to Morten, and it’s always within reach at his cubicle in the Indianapolis Colts locker room.
“Just say I’ve got a point counter,’’ Vinatieri said with a smile.
With each point and each page that’s ripped off, Vinatieri creeps closer to Morten Andersen, the recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and NFL career scoring leader.
“Does it drive me? Sure. Absolutely,’’ he said. “I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want to break records. Everybody wants to break records. We all want that.
“We also want to help our teams win games.’’
Vinatieri has been involved in a record 223 victories in a 22-year career that has involved 359 games, including the playoffs. He’s contributed to the Colts and New England Patriots advancing to the postseason in 15 of 22 seasons. He’s appeared in five Super Bowls and has four world championship rings.
“At the end of the day, we all want to win games and win Super Bowls,’’ Vinatieri said. “After that, it knocks down to what you can do individually to help make that happen.’’
Convert field goals. Knock down PATs. Turn the pages.
Vinatieri sits at 2,434 points, tied with Gary Anderson for second-most in league history. Barring the Colts suffering their second shutout loss in three weeks, he should supplant Anderson Sunday at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
Then? Morten Andersen.
Vinatieri smiled: “110 points.’’
Yes, 110 points to tie Andersen’s record 2,544. Considering Vinatieri has averaged a shade more than 7 points per game during his career, he’s on pace to surpass Andersen in week 6 or 7 of 2018.
“I don’t know if I’ll catch him or not. Hopefully I do,’’ Vinatieri said. “An injury here or there could change things. I don’t ever guarantee anything. It’s one day at a time, honestly.
“I peel the pages off (the point counter) and see where it ends up. In a perfect world I’d like to catch him and put some distance on him next year. If that all works out and I still feel healthy after the end of next year, I’m not putting a time limit on it.
“I know I want to play next year. Would I play another year (after ’18)? I’m not saying no.’’
At 44, Vinatieri is the NFL’s oldest active player and the oldest ever to pull on a Colts uniform. His future with the Colts, though, is uncertain. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season.
It’s clear a major component of general manager Chris Ballard’s massive renovation of the Colts’ roster is injecting it with youth. Of the players under contract, only seven are 30 or older. In all likelihood, the team will part with three of them this offseason: running back Frank Gore (34), backup quarterback Scott Tolzien (30), safety Darius Butler (31).
Even though Vinatieri turns 45 in late December, age seldom is a deciding factor in whether a team retains a kicker, or looks for a better (younger) option. At that position, it’s all about productivity.
“I think we’re the one position where age is irrelevant,’’ Vinatieri said. “OK, I’ll be 45 this offseason. Am I getting old? For sure. I understand that.
“But there are a lot of good kickers that play into their 40s and are very productive, too. There are a thousand kids out there that want my job. I’ve got to do my job well so they can’t have it.’’
Vinatieri has been at his absolute best since turning 40. Over the last five seasons, he’s knocked down 132-of-145 field-goal attempts (91 percent), including 21-of-26 on 50-plus-yard attempts. During his first 17 seasons, he converted 82.4 percent of his kicks (412-500).
Barring slippage over the final two months of the season, it’s hard to imagine the Colts looking elsewhere for a placekicker. They’ll have a willing candidate just waiting for a new contract offer.
“I would hope so,’’ he said of returning for a 13th season in Indy. “I would hope we can get things turned around and we’re playing well and they want me back. I’ve got a family and I don’t want to move them if I don’t have to.
“Yeah, I hope it works out here.’’
Vinatieri’s pursuit of Andersen began in Foxborough, Mass. in 1996 when Andersen was still pounding points for the Atlanta Falcons.
The first of his 2,434 points? A 25-yard field goal for the New England Patriots in a Sept. 1, 1996 loss at Miami.
“I was hoping that was the first of many more (points) that year. That’s all,’’ Vinatieri said. “When you had a head coach like Bill Parcells and you’ve got a snot-nosed kid from South Dakota, you’re just sitting there thinking, ‘Please, don’t screw up. Just earn a couple more weeks.’’
Vinatieri paused, and smiled. He recalled his rookie paycheck. The NFL rookie minimum was $131,000, or roughly $8,100 per week.
“After taxes it was like three or four thousand bucks,’’ he said. “Modest. I was happier than a pig in (slop). I was like ‘Wooo!.’’’
The two-year, $6 million contract Vinatieri signed in March 2016 pays him about $161,700 per week. He’s remained relevant and productive by adapting his offseason workout regimen to reflect his age.
“The difference between a 22-, 23-year old Adam and a 44-year old Adam is big,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t say I work harder. I work a lot differently. Back then, you took the approach it was hard to get into the league and you’re going to work your butt off to get as good as you can to keep your job.
“Now, it’s keep your body healthy. You won’t forget how to kick, you just have to keep your body where it is so you can do your stuff.’’
It also helps, Vinatieri added, to be supported by his wife and kids A.J., Gabriel and Allison. They keep him “grounded.’’
“Life’s completely different,’’ he said, “but I think it’s more rewarding.
“It’s fun having kids that understand and see dad playing and will remember that.’’