KRAVITZ: Old Man Vinatieri is still kicking, poised to break several all-time records – as a Colt

Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri makes one of his five field goals Oct. 9, 2016 against the Chicago Bears in Indianapolis (CNHI News Service Photo/Heather Bremer)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Adam Vinatieri isn’t just coming back for (at least) another season in order to shatter the NFL’s all-time points and all-time field goals records, both held by Ben Davis High School graduate and Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen.

We’re not talking here about some old geezer who is desperately hanging onto his football career by a thread solely to put his name in the record books.

Here’s why Vinatieri is coming back: He’s still good. He’s still great. He’s still the GOAT of NFL kickers. And he’s shown no sign of slowing down.

“I love it today as much as I did the day I started 23 years ago,’’ Vinatieri said Thursday after signing a one-year, $3.625 million contract to remain in Indianapolis. “So I’m not looking to hang them up any time soon.’’

The records? Damn right he wants those records. You’d better believe they’ve been on his mind for some time now. He knows how many points he needs (58) and how many field goals he needs (seven) in order to surpass Andersen. He will break the first record in the middle of next season and he will surely break the field-goals-made record relatively early next season. And if he continues to stay healthy and productive, he figures to put some distance between himself and the rest of the kicking field.

“Those records are definitely within reach this year if I stay healthy and all that,’’ he said. “I really wanted to break that record wearing a Colts helmet, where I’ve spent the majority of my years (13 of 23 years in Indianapolis).’’

Don’t be fooled by the fact he signed a one-year deal; if Vinatieri has another good, healthy season, he’ll sign another one-year deal. And another one-year deal. And he will keep doing it as long as he can continue to ply his craft at a Hall of Fame level. Will he finish his career with the Colts? Too early to say. But Vinatieri is not coming back next season as some sort of a swan song to his 23-year career.

So save your farewell-tour rocking chairs and other gifts.

There’s a reason why Vinatieri was the first Colts’ free agent the team re-signed: Because players of his pedigree and ability should be the organization’s highest priority. General manager Chris Ballard recognizes Vinatieri is still an elite kicker who has shown absolutely no signs of deterioration. Too often, NFL teams treat kickers and punters like bit parts, cycling through them one after another after another. But when you have one as good as Vinatieri, one who is still making field goals from 50 yards and beyond, you hold on tight. This is a team with so many question marks; no reason to create another one at a position that’s wholly underrated in terms of importance.

The thing about kickers is, you don’t know how important they are until you don’t have one. They win and lose games in a league driven by parity and marked by games that come down to three points or fewer. With a game on the line, is there anybody else you want lining up a kick besides Vinatieri?

Unless there’s a blizzard, that is.

Speaking of which, that blizzard in Buffalo was the reason Vinatieri failed to capitalize on an incentive in his old contract that would have earned him an addition $500,000 had he made 90 percent or more of his field-goal attempts. (The new deal will earn him an additional $250,000 if he makes 88 percent of his kicks). Instead, he missed twice in those impossible conditions, the second miss coming late in the game when Chuck Pagano completely mishandled the clock and failed to line Vinatieri up on an area that had been partially cleared of the snow.

After the game, Vinatieri was seething – not because of the half-million that went out the window (well, maybe a little bit) -- but because of the way the game was mismanaged, leading to yet another Colts’ loss in a season filled with mind-numbing losses.

“I don’t know, you’ll have to talk to the coaches about that one,’’ Vinatieri said at the time, biting his tongue. “I was expecting a little bit more time to, you know – whatever…In a perfect world, we have a timeout. The big guys with the big feet can get out there and I can say, `This is where I need cleaned off.’…’’

His return to Indianapolis was not a no-brainer once the season mercifully ended. He wanted to take his time, consider what kinds of changes Ballard would make with the team and the coaching staff – especially the coaching staff. Once he became comfortable with the direction of the franchise, he jumped. A two-year deal would have been preferable, but in the end, he was perfectly comfortable with the one-year contract, with an eye toward signing future one-year deals for as long as he can kick a ball long and straight.

Again, it’s not about the records.

Check that: It is about the records, but it’s not completely about the records.

It’s also about winning – he’s got four Super Bowl rings -- and continuing to play at a very high level.

Anyway, there’s only so much golf you can play, only so many hunting trips you can take. We think of him as Methuselah – and by football standards, he is -- but he’s still just 45 years old, far too young to be contemplating retirement. He’s come too far to turn in his cleats now, having begun his career with the Amsterdam Admirals, then nearly getting cut by Bill Parcells when he began his soon-to-become legendary career with the New England Patriots.

“The league (average) is about 3-point-something years (of service),’’ Vinatieri said. “I just tried to get into the league, get a head start on life, maybe pay off some school loans and move forward.’’

Now look: Twenty-three years later, the Colts made re-signing Vinatieri a priority. Even if his age is confirmed by carbon dating, and his press-guide rookie photo was done in daguerreotype.

“One of the young guys in the room today (at the Colts facility) said, `So, how are the kids and the grandkids?’ ‘’ Vinatieri said. “I know I’m older than most of my teammates’ parents. I take it as a badge of honor, that I can help these guys not only with football stuff, but with life…I enjoy the father figure. I might even be grandpa for some of them.’’

The old man is still kicking. And he’s not even close to being finished.

Want more Kravitz? Subscribe to The Bob Kravitz Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or TuneIn. If you have a good story idea that's worth writing, feel free to send it to

Filed under: