INDIANAPOLIS – At age 41, Adam Vinatieri is completing his 18th NFL season, playing to an age and for a duration that any player would covet.
While the NFL's fifth-leading scorer with 2,006 points may not catch all of those who have tallied more points in the regular season, no player ever might catch what Vinatieri has done when games matter the most.
Vinatieri holds league post-season marks in field goals and attempts (48-of-58), career points (196), consecutive games scoring (25) and most points in a single post-season (49, 2006). He twice has nailed five field goals in a game to tie the NFL's playoff mark.
In making his 14th playoffs, Vinatieri never takes a common occurrence as something common.
"I know I am blessed with the opportunity to play in so many playoff games," said Vinatieri. "There are a lot of guys who don't get that chance. Of 17 previous years, only four times have I not been on a playoff team, which is unbelievable.
"To be a part of franchises that consistently make the playoffs, it's awesome. You can never take it for granted. The whole reason you play is to try to hoist that Lombardi Trophy. You can't do it without making the playoffs. Another year of playoff football is definitely a blessing."
Vinatieri was a free agent signee by New England in 1996 and promptly made the Super Bowl that year. With the Patriots, he only missed the post-season in 1999, 2000 and 2002.
Vinatieri helped put New England in Super Bowl XXXVI with a clutch performance in the snow against Oakland, then sealed a world title with a last-second 48-yard kick to beat St. Louis.
His game-winner from 41 yards with four seconds left beat Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and his club took the next title as well in 2004 against Philadelphia.
Vinatieri joined the Colts in 2006, just in time to contribute in a huge way as Indianapolis won Super Bowl XLI.
He hit 14-of-15 field goals to amass 49 points in a four-game run. Vinatieri was responsible for all the Colts' points in a 15-6 divisional win at Baltimore, then hit three against Chicago in the title match.
The only down playoff moment for Vinatieri in Indianapolis was being hurt for much of the 2009 season when the Colts reached Super Bowl XLIV.
Vinatieri will be playing in his 26th playoff game Saturday. Does he still feel the playoff buzz?
"Absolutely, it never changes. The excitement level amps up about five, tenfold," said Vinatieri. "You know the first week you're out there two-thirds of the teams are cleaning out their lockers, going home and wishing they had the opportunity to do what we've worked our butts off all year to have.
"When you get out there, especially the home games, there's nothing like it. The excitement level goes up. It's hard to explain, but it's even more fun than just playing in the regular season."
The Colts know what they have in this seasoned veteran.
"The guy is just a consummate pro," said Chuck Pagano. "This locker room, this organization, everyone in the NFL respects what he's done, what he means to the league, what he means to everybody as a football player, as a man. Adam is continuing to write his legacy."
Vinatieri this year converted 35-of-40 kicks, including 19-of-23 from beyond 40 yards and four from the 50-yard range.
He has nailed 31 of his last 34 kicks and 43 of his last 46 inside 50 yards. His 139-point season ranks among the franchise bests and 16 100-point seasons tie for the most in NFL history.
"Vinny's done a great job of taking care of his body," said assistant special teams coach Brant Boyer. "He knows exactly what he needs to do each week and stays on task. He stays mentally strong. He's done a fantastic job."
The only player with 825 points for two organizations also is the only kicker to play in five Super Bowls and make field goals in four of those title games. He is one Super Bowl win from tying the most ever accomplished by one player, but he focuses predominantly in team terms.
"I try not to think about any personal records or that sort of stuff," said Vinatieri. "I think the only records and the only goals that I have are our team ones.
"I've had a lot of opportunities to play in a lot of games. You never take anything for granted. You go out there and hope your team can do what it needs to do to win. Hopefully, I'll have a lot of opportunities to help the team advance."
When pressed, Vinatieri does have favorite moments and kicks in his memory bank.
"The 45-yarder (with 32 seconds left) in the divisional round against Oakland in the snow to tie the game is the one I'm most proud of, just for the sheer difficulty of the conditions and for what it meant at that point," said Vinatieri. "Any time you get to kick a game-winner in a Super Bowl, it's hard to beat those. If you had to say my top three, it would have to be those.
"If we can go to my top four, then the Baltimore game (2006 Divisional Playoffs) in my first year with the Colts is there. I couldn't pick a favorite field goal in that game because there were five of them. That definitely was a fun game. It was my first year here, and winning that game on the road against a good Ravens team was awesome."
Adam Vinatieri Career Statistics