If Adam Vinatieri were a normal kicker, the Colts would just cut him today. Vinatieiri has had a nightmare start to his season, missing a pair of extra points in Indianapolis’s 19-17 win over the Titans, a week after missing two FGs and an XP in a six-point loss to the Chargers. That’s nine points left on the board through two games, and that’s not acceptable for an NFL kicker.
But Adam Vinatieri isn’t a normal kicker, of course. He’s 46 years old, the league’s oldest player. He’s the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, and holds the records for most career field goals and most consecutive field goals. He’s a legend, and if there were any justice, he’d have earned the right to decide for himself when to call it quits. But that’s rarely how things work. Sometimes a player just wakes up and, though he still wants to play, realizes he suddenly doesn’t have it anymore. It usually happens before age 46, true, but it still happens.
And so we may have seen Vinatieri’s last kick, ignominiously, a missed extra point. After Week 1, the company line was that everyone has a bad day and the Colts weren’t worried about their kicker. After Week 2, owner Jim Irsay has changed his tune:
“I know all our fans, like I, hurt with Adam, because no one hurts more than Adam does and it breaks my heart to see it, because I know how hard he works. Of course it’s a concern, I can’t lie to you guys. Anyone would tell you it’s a concern. Adam, coach, [GM] Chris [Ballard] everyone, me. Yeah, it’s a concern. This league, it’s professional football. Look, we all have to produce. The expectation is to win when you’re professional. So we’ve got to figure out where we’re at there, and see what coach and Chris think [is] the best direction, and I know Adam will be the most self-honest person of all.”
Vinatieri may already have made up his mind. He didn’t stick around to speak to reporters after Sunday’s game, but ominously promised to speak to them today:
That appears to be exactly what it sounds like. Pro Football Talk reports that Vinatieri is considering retirement, but that the Colts are trying to talk him out of it. I’m not sure how hard they’re going to try, given that retirement is a face-saving alternative to cutting him, and Indy—a team with playoff hopes that’s already lost one game by less than the margin of his missed kicks, and barely hung on to win a second—can’t really afford to go forward with Vinatieri unless they’re sure this is a blip and he’s as competent as ever.
It’s not even clear what might be wrong with Vinatieri, though some clarity should emerge from his meeting with the braintrust today. Might he still be hurt, after missing most of the preseason with a knee injury? Or might something be wrong with his big toe? Might he be the victim of bad snaps and holds? Might he have the yips? Might he be...46 years old? Some of those things are more fixable than others. But Vinatieri has missed two field goals and three extra points through two weeks, a year after missing four field goals and three extra points all season. Whatever’s happened, it’s happened quickly.
Ideally, Vinatieri could go somewhere it doesn’t matter if he can make kicks or not, like Miami, and he could continue to play until he’s in his 60s. But we’ll likely find out today if Week 3 will be the first time since 1995 the NFL hasn’t had Vinatieri in it. And that’d be just as much of a bummer as watching him shank kicks has been.