In uncharacteristic fashion, the greatest kicker of all time left 7 points on the board on Sunday in the form of two missed field goals (46 & 29 yards) and a missed extra point. Given that the Colts ended up losing the game in overtime, Vinatieri’s misses become more noticeable and criticism starts to mount. The Colts (publicly) are sticking with their kicker, with head coach Frank Reich stating “(I have) no concerns that there is any deteriorating of anything physically, and certainly not mentally”. However, it’s fair to wonder if Vinatieri is starting to slip a little in his 24th season.
It’s worth noting that Vinatieri ended his 2018 campaign on a rough note, missing his only field goal attempt (22 yards) and an extra point attempt in the Colts playoff loss to the Chiefs. This means he has made 1 of his last 4 field goal attempts (all under 50 yards) and just 2 of his last 4 extra point attempts. Now that by no means is a death sentence to his career; plenty of kickers have struggled for brief periods of time and come back from it better than ever, but kickers are notorious for losing confidence and then becoming completely ineffective (see Blair Walsh), and concerns for Vinatieri are further amplified given his advanced age.
At 46 years old, Vinatieri is the third oldest player to ever lace them up, trailing only the legendary Morten Anderson and the timeless George Blanda. Father time often strikes hard and without much warning, just ask Vinatieri’s former teammate Peyton Manning. While his leg power may still be there, any physical changes he may be going through that would disrupt his kicking rhythm could potentially be devastating. It bears mentioning that Adam was dealing with a minor knee injury for much of the offseason, including training camp and the preaseon. It was not expected to be an issue going forward, but one certainly has to wonder now if Vinatieri’s knee is continuing to bother him. As a 46 year old, his healing time would certainly be slower than a younger player. If this problem were to persist all season, it’s worth wondering if Vinatieri will still be on an NFL roster by midseason.
All of this worry may be premature. Perhaps the same way Tom Brady keeps making those who question his age look stupid, so will Vinatieri. However, given the massive confidence needed to be a consistent kicker, it’s fair to wonder if Vinatieri may be facing the beginning of the end of a fabulous career.