Colts to stick with struggling Vinatieri as kicker

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts will not be making a kicking change -- for now.

Coach Frank Reich said Monday that they plan to stick with the struggling Adam Vinatieri.

"Just want to make this clear: Adam is our kicker," Reich said. "Like I said [Sunday], we have zero concern. He's not only our kicker, he's an instrumental leader on our team. When we talk about toughness and what we're all about as a team and program, there's probably no one who epitomizes that more than Adam."

Vinatieri will be the kicker against the Atlanta Falcons, but there's a chance the Colts may not have All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard, according to Reich, suffered a concussion during Sunday's victory over the Tennessee Titans and is in the protocol.

Vinatieri's playing future appeared murky after he missed two more kicks -- both extra points -- against the Titans to bring his total of misses to seven over the past three games, dating to last season's playoffs. It has taken him only two games to tie the same number of missed extra points he had last season -- three -- in 47 attempts.

Vinatieri, the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2,605 points, left the locker room without talking to the media on Sunday. Colts owner Jim Irsay didn't hold back in making some strong comments about his team's kicker for the past 14 seasons.

"Of course it's a concern," Irsay said Sunday. "I can't lie to you guys. ... The expectation is to win when you're a professional. So we have to figure out where we're at there and see what Coach and [general manager] Chris [Ballard] think is the best direction."

Reich and Vinatieri met Monday on the team's day off, with the coach declining to say what was discussed.

Vinatieri, who is in his 24th season, admitted that he was "100%" responsible for Indianapolis' Week 1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers after he missed three kicks. The Colts could have dropped to 0-2 if not for a strong defensive performance in the fourth quarter against the Titans.

"He will figure it out, do what he needs to do," Reich said. "Has it been two weeks of subpar? Yes. Is it catastrophic? No. To me it's far from catastrophic. This is the NFL. Some of the most elite players that I've ever played with or coached, I've seen them have bad games back-to-back. That's the way I see it."

The Colts' decision to stick with Vinatieri is looked at as somewhat risky, considering how poorly he has played lately. Not every player in the NFL would get the same leeway that Vinatieri is getting from the Colts.

"There's high standards for every person on our team [and] we all have to understand there's high standards, but to stay they are equally applied the same to all people is probably not realistic," Reich said. "The more games a guy has played, the more he's done, you get a little bit more latitude."

Vinatieri, 46, dealt with a knee problem that sidelined him for a portion of training camp. Reich described his kicker as a physical "powerhouse" and said he doesn't see the knee as an issue despite Vinatieri continuing to receive treatment on it.

In a span of less than a year, Vinatieri has gone from passing Morten Andersen on the NFL's scoring list to now having every kick in practice, pregame warmups and games heavily monitored, while also potentially forcing Reich to go for it on fourth down or go for 2 points instead of kicking the extra point.

"We're always going to make the call at the time that gives us the best chance to win," Reich said. "In a strange way, before that game started [Sunday], I was kind of hoping it kind of came down to a 60-yard field goal to win the game. Hoping that's going to happen one of these games, and there's nobody I would trust more than Adam Vinatieri. Doesn't mean he's going to make every kick. Shoot, he's human."