Colts: Vinatieri says surgery not necessarily the end to 24-year career

Colts

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – AUGUST 24: Adam Vinatieri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on before the preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Adam Vinatieri’s 24th season is over, but he’s not willing to concede there won’t be a 25th.

“Hopefully we’ve got another chapter left,’’ he told CBS4 Monday. “We’ll cross that road when we get there.

“I’m not going to say I’m done. I’m not going to say I’m not. We’ll see.’’

The most prolific and decorated kicker in NFL history will undergo surgery on his left knee Wednesday to repair meniscus and patellar tendon issues that have contributed to the worst season of his career.

The decision was made following extensive consultation with the Indianapolis Colts and a reinforcing opinion from noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who will handle the procedure.

But the decision – do the surgery now – offers a glimpse into Vinatieri’s ultra-competitive mindset.

Dr. Andrews and Colts orthopedic surgeon Tom Klootwyk told him that if he ever wanted to kick again, the surgery had to be done immediately. The normal recovery time is 4-6 months.

“Time is of the essence,’’ Vinatieri said. “So we’re going to have the surgery.

“They told me it’s not going to heal on its own, that I have to get it fixed. They told me, ‘If you never want to play ball again, you just ride off into the sunset and you can fix it next year, in two years, in five years, whenever it’s bothering you.’’’

Opting for surgery is a clear sign Vinatieri, who turns 47 Dec. 28, isn’t ready to walk away. At least not yet.

“Two months from now maybe we’ll have a good understanding and four months from now we’ll have an even better understanding,’’ he said. “If it’s great or it’s terrible and we’re not coming back, at least we’ll know.

“But I promise you one thing: I’m gonna bust my dang ass every day from Wednesday until whenever to give myself a chance to see. If it’s there, it’s there. If it’s not, it’s not.’’

Vinatieri has dealt with the meniscus issue for the better part of three years. The patellar tendon injury is more recent.  He described it as “jumper’s knee,’’ but quickly insisted he’s hardly an expert on the specific nature of the injuries.

The injuries to his left knee have impacted Vinatieri’s 24th season and 14th with the Colts. He’s missed a career-high 14 kicks – eight field goals, six PATs – and errant kicks affected losses to the Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. His 68.0 percent accuracy on field goals (17-of-25) is easily the worst of his career.

The knee injury bothered Vinatieri to the point he missed a few weeks of training camp and spilled into the regular season. He missed five kicks in the first two games, including three in the opening overtime loss to the Chargers.

The discomfort increased prior to the week 13 meeting with Tennessee and became too much for him to deal with. The Colts claimed Chase McLaughlin off waivers last week and he handled the kicking in Sunday’s loss at Tampa Bay.

“I don’t like the way this has gone,’’ Vinatieri said of the Colts’ disappointing 6-7 season. “There’s a lot of stuff that went into this season. I tried to fight back and get back at the beginning of the season a little early and I think that affected some things. It affected my stats and the team’s record, which I hate.

“It was a grind, to say the least.’’

That’s been especially true of late.

“The last few weeks, the last week in particular knowing the writing’s on the wall, it’s been tough. It sucks,’’ he said. “We’re not mathematically out of it, but it’s frustrating when you’re not feeling well and we haven’t reached our goal.

“It’s been a frustrating year all the way around. Just blah.’’

Vinatieri becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and it’s hard to imagine the Colts investing more in a 47-year old kicker coming off knee surgery. It’s possible he’s launched his last field-goal attempt.

If so, he goes out as the NFL’s career leader in points (2,673) and field goals (599). He also holds post-season records with 238 points and 56 field goals. Vinatieri has participated in 242 victories including the playoffs, the most ever.

On a local level, he owns Colts’ records for points (1,515) and field goals (336), and set team and league records by converting 44 straight spanning the 2015-16 seasons.

Vinatieri has appeared in five Super Bowls and been part of four world championships, including Super Bowl XLI with the Colts.

“I’ve never taken the luxury of really soaking it in,’’ he said. “I’ve tried to stay mentally focused on moving forward and how I can help the team and what we’re going to do. I’ve never sat back and relished career stuff.

“There’s been a few accolades and records along the way. I’ve enjoyed it for about 10 minutes and then kind of said, ‘All right, now what?’  At some point I’ll be able to look back and enjoy the length of my career and the success I’ve had with a lot of my teammates. It’s been an unbelievable ride. It’s been an unbelievable blessing.’’

But there might be more to come.

“There’s nothing in the world I like more than family first, then football is a very close second,’’ Vinatieri said. “I’ve had so many coaches and teammates. The Irsay family has been unbelievable to me.

“It’s very hard to walk away from that.’’

Vinatieri has appeared in 365 regular-season games and 30 playoff games. Each is second-most in NFL history. Only John Unitas (17) has spent more seasons with the Colts than Vinatieri (14). Only Reggie Wayne (211), Peyton Manning (208) and Unitas (206) appeared in more games with the team than his 205.

“Everybody wants to go out on their own terms,’’ Vinatieri said. “Unfortunately not everybody gets to do that. It’s a contact sport. Football is one of those things where very few people retire when they want to. Their body usually tells them it’s time.’’

That’s why Vinatieri isn’t certain it’s time.

“I know one thing: when I feel good, I kick well,’’ he said. “I didn’t have the luxury of feeling well pretty much all season.

“I’m not going to say one way or the other if this is it. I’m going to do all the rehab I can if I’m coming back. In April-May, we’ll know for sure if I’m coming back. It depends on how (the knee) responds. We’ll see.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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