INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Adam Vinatieri has been here before.
He was part of an organizational reboot in 2012 that saw the Indianapolis Colts recover from an abysmal season and reach the playoffs. Remember the franchise quarterback (Peyton Manning) missing ’11? Remember 2-14?
Now he’s part of another bounce-back endeavor by a franchise that returned to the postseason after a three-year absence. Remember the franchise quarterback (Andrew Luck) missing ’17? Remember 4-12?
This has a different feel to it, and that’s the overriding reason Vinatieri, fit and eager at age 46, is returning for a 24th NFL season and 14th with the Colts. He made it official Monday morning by signing a one-year, $3.875 million contract.
“The structure we have here is great,” Vinatieri said. “I think Frank Reich brought in the right attitude, work ethic and all of that stuff. Obviously, Chris (Ballard) is doing a fantastic job bringing in the right people by drafting, free agency . . . that now we’ve got a team of guys and the right leadership or the right way of doing it.
“Yeah, I just look at it and go, ‘This is going to be exciting for years to come.’”
Vinatieri dealt with questions of his future as last season unfolded. He already had achieved so much: four Super Bowl championships with New England and the Colts; all-time NFL records for points (2,600) and field goals (582); a league-record 44 consecutive made field goals.
While Vinatieri never hinted he had grown tired of kicking footballs for a living, he also made it clear he no longer was in it to simply kick footballs and push his individual records further out of reach for Justin Tucker, Stephen Gostkowski or someone else to pursue.
He was in it for more playoff success. More rings.
As the Colts were cleaning out their lockers and heading into the offseason following the 31-13 second-round playoff loss at Kansas City, Vinatieri took time to sit back and take the temperature of the room. He saw Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and a young, emerging offensive line. He saw Darius Leonard and a young, emerging defense.
He saw promise.
“I knew this was one of those things I wanted to come back and keep going,” he said. “There is something special about this locker room. There are lots of guys trending the right way.
“Obviously being on a team that has chances of winning divisions and getting to the playoffs, I mean you have to do it. Next year we are going to be 0-0 and starting all over again, but we’ve got a definite upside. Being on a competitive team everybody wants to be, you know?”
Vinatieri knows. His teams have reached the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons. He’s appeared in 32 postseason games, second only to Tom Brady’s 39.
The money and long-term security that comes with it – he has more than $47 million in career earnings – can’t be ignored. But at this point in his career, the priorities have been rearranged.
Vinatieri mentioned last week after agreeing to the new deal it wasn’t about “squeezing” as much as possible out of the Colts. He simply wanted to receive an offer that “was respectable and reasonable.”
More than anything, he wanted to be with a team capable of reaching the playoffs, and more.
On a couple of occasions, Vinatieri mentioned the presence of Luck, who returned to form – 39 touchdown passes, 4,593 yards – after missing 2017 with his shoulder issues. The Colts have reached the playoffs in each of Luck’s four seasons when he wasn’t dealing with the shoulder or a lacerated kidney.
“Having Andrew back on the field you are guaranteed to win a bunch of games because he’s a damn good quarterback,” Vinatieri said. “I think with that, plus we’ve got a lot of great young talent . . . I think we are going to win a lot of games this next year and I definitely wanted to be a part of that.”
Just to keep peace at home, Vinatieri consulted his family before reupping: wife, Valerie, and children A.J., Gabriel and Allison.
“Each one of them had their own reasons for being excited,” Vinatieri said. “(Gabriel) was excited because he’s hoping he can get back in the locker room and keep on dancing with the guys, so that was hilarious.
“My oldest (A.J.), he’s a freshman in high school and he thinks it’s awesome. He said, ‘You just keep going dad. Just kill it.’ I think my daughter thinks the longer I play that means the more horses she gets.
“They were all very, very supportive.”
“My wife has always been my biggest fan and my biggest rock that I can lean on,” he said. “She was like, ‘Yeah, keep going. This is fun.’ It’s great when you have all the support that I have.”