INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – If uncertainty was hovering over his head earlier this week – and it most certainly was – Adam Vinatieri insisted he wasn’t overly concerned with it.
The status of the Indianapolis Colts’ veteran kicker and the NFL’s career scoring leader once again was brought into question after he missed a league-high sixth PAT in Sunday’s 16-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Tuesday, general manager Chris Ballard held a second round of workouts, this time bringing in four free-agent kickers. He first held auditions after Vinatieri missed five kicks in the Colts’ first two games.
Did Vinatieri anticipate Ballard making a move?
“That’s way above my pay grade,’’ he said Thursday. “I don’t think about that stuff.
“My only thing was to come in and check out the film and see what we can do better.’’
Better is what the Colts have been asking from Vinatieri.
He’s now missed 11 kicks in nine games – the six PATs and five field goals. His 73.7 conversion percentage (14-of-19) is tied for 21st in the league among kickers with at least 10 attempts. Only three have more than five misses: San Francisco’s Robbie Gould with seven, and Dallas’ Brett Maher and Carolina rookie Jason Slye, with six each.
Vinatieri’s six errant PATS are one more than Houston’s Ka’imi Fairbairn (23-of-28).
Frank Reich cleared the air regarding Vinatieri Wednesday – at least for now – when he announced, “Adam is our kicker.’’
“Chris and I have talked about the situation,’’ he said. “We have confidence in Adam. Obviously, there have been other kickers in here working out. We have the confidence in Adam. He is not just our kicker. He is a leader on our team. He is a captain and his presence is important.
“I believe whatever we’re going through is just a phase and he is going to help us win games and get to where we want to go.’’
Vinatieri insisted there have been no changes in the routine with long-snapper Luke Rhodes and holder Rigoberto Sanchez.
“We just kind of adjusted a couple of little things, but nothing worth commenting about,’’ he said. “Things never change. You’re always trying to do the best you can.
“Just check out the film to see what you’re doing right or wrong and it’s the little things. At this point, you’re not re-creating anything.’’
What has film study revealed in regards to the 11 misses? Eight strayed wide left.
“Maybe just tempo, just timing-wise,’’ he said. “You’ve got a certain amount of time that you’re supposed to be getting everything off. Sometimes it’s fast and not slow.’’
This isn’t the first time Vinatieri has endured a prolonged stretch of inconsistent kicking.
As a rookie with New England in 1996, he converted just 27-of-36 field goal attempts (75.0 percent) and 39-of-43 PATs. The Patriots stuck with him and he hit 2-of-3 field goals and all nine of his PATs in a postseason that saw them lose to Green Bay in the Super Bowl.
In 2003, Vinatieri endured his worst season, percentage-wise (25-of-34 on field goals, 73.5 percent). His struggles carried over into the postseason (7-of-10), but ended in dramatic fashion. In Super Bowl XXXVIII against Carolina, Vinatieri pushed a 31-yarder wide right and had a 36-yard attempt blocked, but then delivered a 41-yarder with 9 seconds remaining that gave New England a 32-29 victory.
Each time, Vinatieri silenced his critics. Thus far, he’s maintained the support of Reich and Ballard.
“I appreciate the ability to keep going,’’ Vinatieri said.
Is it difficult to block out what could have transpired earlier this week?
“Obviously we’ve all our own biggest critics,’’ he said. “Any time that it’s not perfect, you want to make it perfect. I don’t worry about the decisions that are being made that I can’t control one way or the other.
“Everybody, if you’ve played long enough, there’s times you’re going to get scrutinized one way or the other. I would love to make every single kick every single year of my career. It doesn’t work like that. The only thing you can do is go back out there and continue to work hard.’’
Veteran wideout Devin Funchess went through a second straight limited practice Thursday, but didn’t exactly sound like someone on the verge of returning to the playing field. He’s been on the injured reserve list since broken his clavicle in the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, and Sunday’s Jacksonville game is the first opportunity for him to return.
“My bone’s still got to heal,’’ Funchess said on several occasions. “I’m not going to go out there and try to re-break it.
“I’ve been trying since I got hurt, and it’s not a good process. You can’t control a bone. It’s healing when it wants to heal.’’
Funchess’ likely absence against the Jaguars is compounded by injuries to T.Y. Hilton (calf) and Parris Campbell (fractured hand).
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