INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time this season — and this decade — Adam Vinatieri does not know if he’ll be the Indianapolis Colts placekicker on gameday.
The 46-year-old kicker said Thursday he wasn’t sure if his left knee would feel good enough in time to kick in Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If he doesn’t play, it will be the first game Vinatieri has lost to injury since the 2009 season.
The knee injury, Vinatieri said Thursday, is “similar” to the one that sidelined him for a few weeks during training camp and the preseason. He believed initially the team had gotten it under control, but the same knee has ailed him on and off throughout the season. Last week, the pain began to intensify, first during practice then during pregame warmups Sunday.
He played through the pain, going 1-for-4 on field goals (two blocks) and 2-for-2 on his extra points before the pain became “sharper” this week. As a result, he landed on the injury report for the first time this season and underwent an MRI after Wednesday’s practice. He was waiting to learn the results when he spoke to the media.
“I’m not a doctor,” Vinatieri said early Thursday afternoon. “I can’t read that stuff. I don’t know exactly what was done and said, but we’re meeting up with them later today. … Not stressing too much today. Just doing treatment and stuff like that. We’ll see how it feels going forward.”
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Vinatieri doesn’t normally kick Thursdays and didn’t plan to make an exception this week. Instead, he will “treat the heck out of it everyday and see what we can come up with.”
Vinatieri remains hopeful about playing Sunday but he also didn’t rule out being placed on season-ending injured reserve.
“I don’t have an answer,” Vinatieri said. “I don’t know.”
If that happens, there’s a chance Colts fans may have seen the last of the living legend while wearing a horseshoe on his helmet. Given his age — he turns 47 in a few weeks — and struggles this season — a career-high 14 misses — it is possible the relationship will not renewed.
Ahead of the season, Vinatieri signed a one-year, $3.875-million contract with the Colts. However, the kicker said he hasn’t even thought about the possibility of not kicking again this season. Instead, he is focused on doing everything he can to be ready for Sunday.
“This is just a day at a time,” Vinatieri said. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and the next day and the next day. … If I can go, I’ll go.”
Ultimately, Vinatieri added, he, coach Frank Reich and team doctors will all have a say in whether or not he plays Sunday.
Vinatieri is currently experiencing the worst season of his legendary 24-year career. He has missed an NFL-leading 14 kicks this year (eight field goals and six extra points). After his first kick Sunday (an extra point), however, Vinatieri had made nine consecutive kicks.
If he cannot kick Sunday, the Colts have an insurance policy in rookie Chase McLaughlin, whom they claimed off waivers on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old most recently kicked for the San Francisco 49ers for three games, filling in for the injured Robbie Gould. Before that, there was a four-game stop in Los Angeles with the Chargers. In seven games between those two teams, McLaughlin converted 13-of-17 (76.5%) of his field goal attempts, along with all 15 of his extra-point attempts.
McLaughlin, the 2018 Big Ten Kicker of the Year at Illinois, was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent this offseason but was released during final cuts. He spent some time on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad before joining the Chargers.
Follow IndyStar Colts Insider Jim Ayello on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @jimayello.