*BALTIMORE — *Fresh off the soggy M&T Bank Stadium grass, Adam Vinatieri stood at his locker and understood what was coming his way.
Now just one game left in his 22nd NFL season, and his two-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts expiring at the end of the year, Vinatieri can almost expect the “What’s your future?” question each and every time he gets a microphone or a camera in his face.
Up until Saturday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, Vinatieri, at least on the record, would be non-committal to a 23rd NFL season, deferring to how his body and mind are feeling when the offseason hits.
But with his 45th birthday just days away, Vinatieri on Saturday officially decided to let his 2018 plans be known.
With numerous kicking records within relatively easy reach, Vinny’s going to be back. Whether or not that’s in Indianapolis is a whole different question, however.
“Indianapolis is home to me and my family. I love the Irsay family, but I understand this is a business,” Vinatieri said. “I just know I’m going to play another year.”
Vinatieri has, amazingly, gotten better with age, especially since turning 40 towards the end of the 2012 regular season, one year after signing a three-year deal to remain in Indianapolis. Since the 2013 season, he has connected on 141-of-156 field goals for a 90.4 percent success rate, which is almost six percentage points better than his career 84.5 field goal percentage.
Vinatieri has also improved from longer distances; prior to 2013, he had made 16 kicks from 50 yards or more in his first 17 seasons; he has made 22 of them from that distance in the five seasons since.
Along the way, Vinatieri has ascended up the league’s record books for kickers, and finds himself in the Top 5 in most key categories, if not in the Top 2 or 3 (or, in some cases, No. 1).
Currently in second place in the most important category, made field goals, VInatieri trails only the great Morten Andersen’s all-time mark of 565. If Vinatieri plays another season, he’ll likely pass Andersen by Week 11 or 12.
This season has certainly been an interesting, if not at-times frustrating, one for VInatieri, who has been in the unfortunate position of trying to kick in a blizzard at Buffalo a couple weeks back, going 0-for-2 with six inches of snow on the ground but hitting a key 43-yard extra point late in the fourth quarter, and then trying to make kicks in a constant downpour Saturday against the Ravens.
Vinatieri missed two field goal tries again against the Ravens, but one was blocked, while the other barely missed from 60 yards out at the end of the first half. Had he connected, it would’ve been his career-long by three yards.
“I felt I really hit it well,” he said of the attempt. “I just kept waiting for the officials to put their hands up, but I guess it was a little short. It left my foot and it felt well. I thought I had enough. When they sent me out there I had enough confidence that I could make that kick.”
Vinatieri would recover to hit three field goals and an extra point to give him 100 points scored on the season to extend his NFL record to 20 seasons with 100-plus points.
For now, Vinatieri’s focus remains on the team’s 2017 finale on Dec. 31 against the Houston Texans. From there, however, both the legendary kicker and the Colts will have discussions about what they can do to keep the future Hall of Famer in Indy for at least the next season.
One thing’s for sure: in a rough year for the Colts (3-12), Vinatieri has appreciated the fight he’s seen week in and week out. A four-time Super Bowl champion, he certainly knows what it takes to win in the NFL, and feels the Colts aren’t far away from having a team capable of being contenders once again.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “We seem to be playing well enough to stay in games. We’ve played some good teams very tough, but we haven’t been able to win. This may sound odd, but this is the best 3-12 team that I’ve ever known of. When you look at a team that has a 3-12 record, you think, ‘These guys are terrible.’ But we aren’t and any team that plays us knows it."