After further struggles, Adam Vinatieri raises question about future

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 15: Kicker Adam Vinatieri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts after missing an extra point in the second half of a 19-17 Colts victory over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The owner and head coach aren’t on the same page, but that might not be the opinion that matters most when it comes to struggles of Adam Vinatieri.

The overriding opinion belongs to Adam Vinatieri.

An undeniable subplot to the Indianapolis Colts’ first win of the season – Sunday’s 19-17 nod over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville – was the continued inefficiency of their Hall of Fame-bound kicker.

Vinatieri was on the field three times and came up empty twice, missing a pair of PATs. In the last three games, including the second-round playoff loss at Kansas City, he’s missed seven kicks – four PATs and field goals of 46, 29 and 23 yards.

After Sunday’s game, Vinatieri declined to talk at length with reporters, telling them, “You’ll hear from me tomorrow.’’

Reminded the media doesn’t see players on Monday, he responded, “Yeah, you will.’’

Let the speculation begin.

Vinatieri is in his 24th season and is just the fourth player in NFL history to play at age 46 (joining George Blanda, Morten Andersen and John Carney). In my many talks with him regarding how long he planned to stick around, one comment was constant.

As long as I’m an asset, and not a liability.

Have we reached that point? If he makes any of his kicks in the opening 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Colts might be sitting at 2-0. He took full blame for that one.

No one takes his job more seriously than Vinatieri. He’s not the type to hang around to pad a resume that already merits first-ballot inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He owns NFL records for points (2,605) and made field goals (583) and pushed the league record for consecutive made field goals to 44 in 2015-16. He won two Super Bowls for the New England Patriots with closing field goals and has four world championship rings, including one with the Colts.

But there’s no dismissing the downturn even though Frank Reich remains firmly in Vinatieri’s corner.

“I have no concern,’’ he said.

After routinely knocking down the PAT following Jacoby Brissett’s 3-yard touchdown to Eric Ebron, Vinatieri’s troubles resurfaced. He yanked the second attempt wide left – “The operation wasn’t clean,’’ Reich noted on the snap and hold – and hit the right upright on the second.

“Zero concern,’’ Reich reiterated.

Jim Irsay, however, didn’t agree during a post-game discussion with the media at Nissan Stadium.

“Of course there’s a concern,’’ he said. “Anyone would tell you it’s a concern – Adam, coach, Chris (Ballard), everyone. Yeah, it’s a concern.

“This league, it’s professional football. We all have to produce. The expectation is to win when you’re a professional.’’

Irsay met with Ballard in the locker room following the game. He offered his GM some sound advice.

“I just told Chris in there, ‘Watch the film, let things calm down. Monday we’ll look at things and see where we’re at,’’’ Irsay said. “No one hurts more than Adam hurts, and it breaks my heart to see it because I know how hard he works.

“Adam is such a great champion. I know how it hurts Adam so deeply. Everyone knows Adam takes this literally – besides his own family and children – (as) the No. 1 thing in his life. He’s so dedicated to bringing greatness to the Colts and to his career.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast:

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