Colts claim kicker Chase McLaughlin; Adam Vinatieri appears on injury report


SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 17: Place kicker Chase McLaughlin #5 of the San Francisco 49ers kicks a 43 yard field goal against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of the NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A season of twists and turns and mounting misses has taken another uncertain turn for Adam Vinatieri.

His status for Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – and perhaps the rest of the season – is up in the air after an injury to his left knee that first surfaced in training camp flared up this week.

Vinatieri appeared on the NFL’s weekly injury report for the first time Wednesday – he was limited, although Wednesday is a day he normally doesn’t kick – and that coincided with the Colts being awarded placekicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers.

It’s believed McLaughlin represents insurance in the event the knee injury forces Vinatieri to miss the Bucs game. But it’s entirely possible that will be the scenario Sunday at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

And at the risk of hyperbole, no one should rule out the knee issue being severe enough – especially with the season winding down – to send Vinatieri to the injured reserve list. When the knee issue first bothered him during training camp, it forced him to miss a few weeks. That type of recovery time doesn’t seem to be a viable option with only four games remaining.

The next few days figure to be interesting.

Vinatieri first missed a few weeks of camp due to an unspecified injury to his left knee. It followed him into the regular season and contributed to him missing five kicks – two field goals and three PATs – in the first two games. In the opening 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, he missed 46- and 29-yard field goals and a PAT.

On the season, Vinatieri has missed a career-high 14 kicks – eight field goals and a career-high and league-high six PATs. He’s converted 17-of-25 field goals; the 68% clip is easily the worst of his decorated career.

Vinatieri has never used the knee injury as an excuse for his erratic season.

“I’m healthy enough to be on the field,’’ he said in mid-November.

Even so, Vinatieri has admitted it’s been a frustrating season.

“Personally, it’s been an interesting year to say the least,’’ he said last month. “Starting the season off with a little bit of a knee issue and not getting a bunch of kicks in preseason. That kind of got me off to a little bit of a slow start.

“No excuses. Just didn’t hit the ball well at the beginning. I feel like it’s been an up and down year, for sure.’’

In Sunday’s 31-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Vinatieri converted a 28-yarder but missed a 55-yard attempt and had 53- and 46-yarders blocked. The Titans returned the 46-yarder for a touchdown with five minutes remaining that dramatically flipped the game’s momentum.

McLaughlin is a rookie who’s with his fifth team in seven months.

He has appeared in seven games with the Los Angeles Chargers (four) and San Francisco 49ers (three). On the season, he’s converted 13-of-17 field goal attempts and all 15 PATs.

The 49ers waived him when Robbie Gould recovered from a quadriceps injury.

McLaughlin was one of six kickers general manager Chris Ballard brought in for workouts in September when Vinatieri struggled at the outset.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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