Colts’ T.Y. Hilton might have to ‘just shut it down’ if calf injury lingers


HOUSTON, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 21: Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts walks on the field before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on November 21, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

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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 recently flared up.

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.

The next few days figure to be interesting.

In a Wednesday evening appearance on SIRIUS XM Radio, Frank Reich revealed Vinatieri was having “some problems’’ with his left knee during pre-game warm-ups for Sunday’s game with the Tennessee Titans.

“He gutted it out, was fine, did what he had to do to get through the game,’’ Reich said. “Then came out here earlier this week and it was not responding the way I think he was looking for it to respond. So we got some scans on it. We’ll consult with the doctors, figure out what we need to do and monitor it as the week goes along.’’

Vinatieri missed a few weeks of training camp due to an unspecified injury to his left knee. It followed him into the regular season and contributed to five missed 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 picks – eight field goals and a career-high and league-high six PATs. He’s converted 17-of-25 field goals; the 68.0 percent clip is easily the worst of his decorated career.

Vinatieri, who turns 47 Dec. 28, 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 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 5 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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