INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The end came suddenly, but had been building for quite some time.
Adam Vinatieri, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and the greatest kicker in league history, will be placed on the injured reserve list with a lingering issue with his left knee, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. He’ll undergo surgery on the knee.
Monday’s decision ends Vinatieri’s 14-year career with the Indianapolis Colts and perhaps his 24-year career in the NFL. Only George Blanda (26) and Morten Andersen (25) logged more seasons. Only Andersen (382) appeared in more regular-season games than Vinatieri (365). No one has scored more points than Vinatieri, either in the regular season (2,673) or postseason (238).
Vinatieri, who turns 47 Dec. 28, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Vinatieri endured the worst season of his decorated career. He’s missed a career-high 14 kicks – eight field goals and six PATs – and his 68.0 percent conversion rate (17-of-25) is easily the lowest of a career that began in 1996 with the New England Patriots.
In mid-November, Vinatieri conceded “it’s been an interesting year to say the least. I feel like it’s been an up-and-down year for sure.”
Much of the blame can be traced to a knee injury that first surfaced during training camp. It forced him to miss a few weeks, after which Vinatieri believed he “got it kind of under control.”
However, it actually lingered into the regular season – he missed two field goals and three PATs in the first two games – and required constant treatment.
Vinatieri first appeared on the NFL’s weekly injury report Wednesday when he was listed as a limited participant. That was a result of discomfort in the knee increasing last week and becoming more acute following Sunday’s 31-17 loss to Tennessee during which he missed three kicks, two of which were blocked.
“Just a little more sharp (pain) than it was before,” he said.
Vinatieri had an MRI on his left knee last week to determine the nature and severity of the injury, then met with Chris Ballard and members of the medical staff to determine the best course of action.
“Probably a collection of all of us, I suppose,” he said. “Docs and trainers and everybody will put their two-cents in and we’ll see if we can go. If I can go, I’ll go.”
That obviously wasn’t the decision.
The Colts prepared for Vinatieri’s departure by claiming rookie placekicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers last week. He handled the kicking duties in Sunday’s 38-35 loss at Tampa Bay. McLaughlin hit 50- and 19-yard field goals and three PATs, but missed a crucial 47-yarder in the fourth quarter.
In 24 seasons, Vinatieri established himself as the greatest kicker in NFL and Colts’ history, and laid the foundation to be a likely first-ballot inductee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Along with being the NFL’s all-time leader in points and made field goals (599), his 1,515 points and 394 field goals are most in Colts history. During a 22-game stretch that spanned 2015-16, Vinatieri set the league record with 44 consecutive successful field goals.
Vinatieri’s 14 seasons with the Colts is tied for second-most behind John Unitas’ 17. That comes after a 10-year career with the New England Patriots.
Also, Vinatieri appeared in 205 games, trailing only Reggie Wayne (211), Peyton Manning (208) and Unitas (206) in team history.
In the postseason, Vinatieri holds records for points (234), made field goals (56), field goal attempts (68) and consecutive games with at least one point (30). Twice, he delivered game-winning, clock-beating field goals to win Super Bowl titles for the New England Patriots. He has four world championship rings, including one with the Colts following the 2006 season.
After 10 seasons with the Patriots, Vinatieri signed with the Colts as a free agent in the ’06 offseason.
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