Colts Kicker Adam Vinatieri To Miss First Game Since 2009

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri talks on field after making a game-winning field goal in an October home win over Denver. He's been ruled out for Sunday with a left knee inury.Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

Phillip B. Wilson

Struggling Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri will miss his first game since 2009 on Sunday and his status for the remainder of the season is in doubt due to a lingering left knee injury.

The 46-year-old specialist didn’t practice this week and was listed on the injury report for the first time all season, although the problem with his plant leg has been bothering him since training camp.

Colts head coach Frank Reich said Vinatieri, who has had the worst season of his legendary 24-year career with 14 missed kicks, will be considered week-to-week. Vinatieri had a magnetic resonance imaging test done on the knee earlier this week. Reich said the team has yet to consider placing the kicker on season-ending injured reserve.

“We’ll just monitor it and see how it goes,” Reich said on Friday, when asked about considering IR. “That will be a week-to-week deal.”

Players deemed “week to week” usually miss more than one week as opposed to injured players who are considered “day to day.”

The Colts claimed rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers on Wednesday. The 23-year-old McLaughlin made 13 of 17 field goals and all 15 extra points in stints with San Francisco and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Vinatieri holds numerous NFL records, including most field goals (599), points (2,673) and longest consecutive streak of field goals made (44). But the four-time Super Bowl winner is best known for hitting a pair of game-winning field goals to win championship games while with New England, earning him the nickname “Mr. Clutch.”

But he’s coming off the third three-miss game of 2019, a 31-17 home loss to the Tennessee Titans. Two of the kicks were blocked — one his fault for not getting enough elevation but the latter the result of a blocking breakdown, which resulted in a 63-yard return for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Although pained by the injury since preseason, Vinatieri has always declined to discuss the subject or use it as an excuse. Reich said the injury flared up before Sunday’s game, although Vinatieri still had plenty of leg on a 55-yard attempt that was just wide right.

What’s been more disconcerting has been six misses on extra points, a league high, which proved costly in three losses. He missed a potential game-winning attempt late at Pittsburgh, but came back the next week and converted a game-winning kick of 51 yards in the final seconds of a home win against Denver.

Before this season, the most kicks Vinatieri had missed in a year was 11 as a rookie with New England in 1996.

The last time he sat out due to injury was 13 games including three in the postseason in 2009, when he had his right knee scoped. McLaughlin becomes just the third Colts kicker since Vinatieri joined the team in free agency in 2006. The other two were Matt Stover in 2009 and Martin Gramatica in 2006.

Also ruled out for Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay is four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who will be sidelined for the fifth time with a calf strain. Since his 2012 selection, the Colts are 1-8 without him in the lineup.

Nickel cornerback Kenny Moore (ankle), who has a penchant for making impact plays, also won’t play due to an ankle injury.

The Colts (6-6), who have lost four of five, are on the brink of being eliminated from AFC playoff contention. The Buccaneers (5-7), have won three of four to boost their chances, but both teams likely have to win out in the four remaining games to have a realistic shot at the postseason.