The ageless Colt: call him Vinny, Adam, but not Mr. Vinatieri

Sports

Adam Vinatieri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after making a field goal against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The latest perspective on Adam Vinatieri’s staying power comes from two of the newest members of the Indianapolis Colts.

Listen to center Ryan Kelly. The team’s first-round draft pick turned 23-years-old on May 30.

“Technically he could be my dad,’’ Kelly said of Vinatieri. “My dad’s 51, but if dad had had me at 20, yeah, (Vinatieri) could be my dad.’’

Listen to safety T.J. Green. The second-round pick is one of three 21-year-old Colts and the youngest member of the team.

“He’s probably about the same age as my dad,’’ Green said. “Seriously.’’

So it goes with Vinatieri. He’s 43 and entering yet another season – his 21st overall and 11th with the Colts – as the NFL’s oldest active player. Moreover, he’s the oldest player ever to suit up for the franchise.

“Same ol’, same ol’,’’ Vinatieri said with a smile.

A light beard framed his face. It was a salt-and-pepper blend, with more salt than pepper.

“I’ve been the oldest guy in the locker room for quite a while,’’ he said. “I don’t know when we’ve had a guy on the team older than me. It’s probably been six, seven, eight years.’’

The last time Vinatieri wasn’t the oldest Colt was in 2009 when he missed 10 games and the postseason run to Super Bowl XLIV with a knee injury. His replacement: 42-year-old Matt Stover.

The last time Vinatieri wasn’t the oldest Colt on the opening-day roster also was ’09. Prior to that, he always deferred to Marvin Harrison, four months his senior.

While players come and go, Vinatieri remains.

Considering the age difference, introductions occasionally have been a bit too formal.

“Yeah, sometimes it’s Mr. Vinatieri, which is hilarious to me,’’ he said. “I laugh. I tell ‘em, ‘Vinny, Adam, whatever you want to call me is all good.’’’

In 2013, Vinatieri passed rookie safety John Boyett in a hallway at the team complex.

“He forgot and didn’t know I was a player,’’ Vinatieri said. “He called me ‘Coach.’ That was hilarious. I’m probably older than half the coaches.’’

Imagine, Kelly was asked, an NFL career that spans 21 seasons. “That’s ridiculous,’’ he said. “That’s taking care of your body, number one. That’s obviously a priority. But it just goes to show you he’s still got it. You play that long because you still can produce.’’

And as we all know, the NFL is all about production. Age seldom carries weight in personnel decisions, until the aging process manifests itself in declining productivity.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with loyalty,’’ Vinatieri said. “It’s a production league. It’s been that way forever.

“The day I can’t do it, I’m sure they won’t think twice about getting rid of me. There’s no love lost.’’

That’s cold, but that’s the reality of the NFL.

Vinatieri experienced a bit of that during the offseason. His contract had expired, and he was eager to re-up with the Colts. He believed he had earned a two- or three-year extension based on his performance. Over the past two seasons, he had converted a league-best 55-of-58 field-goal attempts. Over the past five seasons, he’s knocked down 17-of-24 attempts of at least 50 yards.

The Colts initially disagreed and offered a one-year contract. Common ground eventually and grudgingly was reached on a two-year, $6 million deal that could increase by an additional $1 million through incentives. The $3 million base average is tied for No. 11 among placekickers.

“I just wanted something that was fair,’’ Vinatieri said at the time, adding he could have gotten a heftier contract from another team. “For me to go somewhere else at this point made no sense.

“These are my brothers. These are the guys I love. It’s more important for me to try to win another Super Bowl with these guys than it is to go somewhere else and start over.’’

He’s appeared in five Super Bowls, and was on the active roster but inactive when the Colts lost to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV. Only Tom Brady and Mike Lodish, with six each, have been in more.

Even as the roster turns over every season, Vinatieri values the camaraderie. It’s never mattered he shares the locker room with players half his age.

“They talk about movies and I talk about movies and they’re like, ‘I remember that one when I was 2 and it first came out,’’’ he said. “Or music’s a funny thing for me, too. Classic rock in their mind is just rock and roll to me.

“This is one of those things that’s great. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are or the color of your skin. We’re a group of men than have come together to work hard for a common goal. That’s kind of cool.’’

Vinatieri by the numbers:

  • 4: Colts on the active roster after the age of 40 – Vinatieri, Matt Hasselbeck (2015), Matt Stover (2009), Joe Ferguson (1990).
  • 21: Seasons in the NFL. He’s the only player in league history to play at least 10 seasons with two teams, and he’s now been with the Colts (11 years) longer than he was with the Patriots.
  • 306: Regular-season games played, No. 6 in NFL history.
  • 30: Postseason games. Tom Brady holds the record (31).
  • 2,253: Regular-season points, No. 3 all-time. Ahead of him are Morten Andersen (2,544) and Gary Anderson (2,434). He’s the only player in league history with at least 1,000 points with two teams. His 1,095 are a Colts’ record.
  • 234: Postseason points, No. 1 all-time. Ironically, he has generated 117 points with the Colts and 117 with the Patriots.

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