Adam Vinatieri says he should have had knee surgery in offseason, missed start of season

INDIANAPOLIS -- Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri's 24th year in the NFL was full of disappointment, as he made a career-low 68% of his field-goal attempts before a knee problem caused the team to put him on the season-ending injured reserve list.

If Vinatieri had to do all over again, though, he wouldn't have waited so long to have left knee surgery.

"Hindsight, if I had a crystal ball I would have gotten it fixed last offseason because we dealt with it last year as well to a little bit lesser degree," Vinatieri told ESPN on Tuesday. "Unfortunately, in the middle of training camp it came back and that's why we rested it in and took anti-inflams to try to get it under control.

"In hindsight, I didn't want to miss any games at the beginning of the year. I probably should have missed a couple games at the start of the season. I was bullheaded. I said I can go, I can kick. It was kind of lousy the whole year."

The Colts finally shut Vinatieri down for the season Monday after his knee flared up in practice on Dec. 4. The team claimed Chase McClaughlin off waivers that same day and he made 2 of 3 field goals and all three of his PATs against Tampa Bay on Sunday. Vinatieri is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday after going to get a second opinion on his knee.

"If I was going to play the rest of the season we were going to have to inject it every time I kicked, every single game," Vinatieri said. "Nobody felt real good about that situation. The doctor said we were masking bigger problems. At that point they said if I ever want to kick again, go get this fixed. They said rehab wise it's going to take a while. We need to do it sooner rather than later. They encouraged me not to wait a month or two to get it done."

Vinatieri, the league's all-time leading scorer, went 1-of-3 on field goals and 2-of-5 on extra points in the first two weeks of the season. His three misses cost the Colts the game in their 30-24 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 1. Rumors swirled about Vinatieri's future with the Colts in Week 2. He left the locker room without talking to the media, which was rare for him, and then said he had a lot of work to do to "get those demons so I can go clear-headed, step on the field and just do my job" two days later.

The Colts stuck with Vinatieri despite working out more than 10 different kickers during the season. Doing so hurt them because Vinatieri missed a league-high 14 kicks, three of which were blocked, and he also cost the Colts a game at Pittsburgh in early November.

"I'm not making excuses for anything," Vinatieri said. "Anytime I'm on the field, I need to make every kick that's in front of me. But I do know technique wise, the discomfort and pain in my knee was changing my technique and form. Unfortunately, I probably could have kicked better if my knee feeling better."

Vinatieri's performance this season is one of the reasons why arguably the NFL's greatest kicker and future Hall of Famer said he isn't ready to say he'll definitely retire despite turning 47 years old on Dec. 28.

"I don't like how this year ended for me and I wish I could have done more to help the team," he said. "I'm going to rehab and bust my butt to get healthy and strong and we'll see where we're at. If May, June comes around and I feel good, I'm kicking a good ball, then we'll re-evaluate. If it's not there, it's not there. I understand everything ends at some point, but I'm not sure it's there now or not."

Returning to the Colts for Vinatieri -- if he plays a 25th season -- is murky because he'll be a free agent in the offseason and these final three games of the regular season are basically an audition period for McClaughlin.

"I really don't want to be a journeyman," said Vinatieri, who has spent has spent his entire career with the Colts and New England Patriots. "I'm not going to spend four weeks here, two weeks there. To be 100 percent honest, the only thing I'm thinking about is having this surgery, getting healthy and getting strong and back to where I need to be. If I'm not, none of that matters. "