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Colts' Vinatieri gets new deal, chance to set scoring record

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The NFL's oldest player is going to try to break the league's career scoring record.

If Adam Vinatieri gets his way, it might not be the only record to fall.

On Thursday, the 45-year-old kicker signed a one-year deal to stay with the Indianapolis Colts - a deal he insists may not be his last.

Financial details were not immediately available, though the deal is believed to be in the neighborhood of last season's $3 million salary. Vinatieri also noted during a conference call that he will receive a $250,000 bonus if he makes 88 percent of his field goal attempts next season after missing barely missing out on a bonus for making 90 percent in 2017.

But money isn't the reason Vinatieri returned. He is playing well, wants to win and needs 58 points to surpass Morten Andersen as the league's top scorer.

"I know 57, 58 points away is definitely within reach this year if I stay healthy and all that," said Vinatieri, who has scored 2,487 points. "I really wanted to break that record wearing a Colts helmet where I've played the majority of the years in my career now."

Vinatieri made his intentions clear late last year that he wanted to play a 24th pro season and his preference was to stay in Indianapolis, where he has developed deep roots since joining the Colts as a free agent in 2006.

General manager Chris Ballard quickly let Vinatieri know the team wanted him back. The combination made Indy's first major offseason move pretty simple.

"This process was substantially easier than it was maybe a couple years ago," Vinatieri said. "I know when Chris and I had conversations after the season I expressed to him how if everything was moving in the right direction and everything was going to get taken care of, how much I would like to be here and continue my career here. He expressed to me that he also wanted me to keep playing here. So the process was pretty easy."

Vinatieri acknowledged hiring Frank Reich as the new coach also helped persuade him to come back.

Reich takes over a team that went 4-12 in 2017 and played without Andrew Luck the entire season. The quarterback is still rehabbing from surgery he had on his throwing shoulder 13 months ago.

The good news is Reich knows he can count on the best clutch kicker in league history.

Vinatieri earned his reputation by making two Super Bowl-winning kicks with the New England Patriots.

But his legacy runs much deeper. He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, a fourth championship with the Colts after the 2006 season and nearly added a fifth despite finishing the 2009 season on injured reserve.

Patriot fans also remember Vinatieri for making two field goals in a driving snowstorm - one to force the overtime, the other to win it - in the infamous "Tuck Rule" playoff game that helped New England win its first Super Bowl title. He rekindled those images in December when he made a long extra point to help force overtime in a blizzard at Buffalo.

Vinatieri is the last active player from NFL Europe, and he has been around long enough to remind reporters he once tackled Herschel Walker.

But the Colts are more concerned with productivity than records and so far, they've seen no indication Vinatieri is slowing down.

"Adam is one the best players in NFL history and we are excited to keep him in Indianapolis," Ballard said in a statement. "He continues to play at a high level and his experience and production are valuable assets for our team. Adam is the consummate pro and a key leader in our locker room."

He needs nine field goals to pass Gary Anderson for second all-time and 36 to break Andersen's career record of 565.

If he sticks around a few more years, as he suggested he might, Vinatieri won't just be chasing Anderson and Andersen.

He also would be within striking distance of surpassing George Blanda as the oldest player to ever play in the NFL at 48 years, 109 days. Vinatieri would break the mark if he plays in the 2021 season opener.

"Less concerned about that one," Vinatieri said, chuckling. "I guess I'll take these one year at a time and see where it ends up. I would anticipate if I can stay healthy and be productive, I can anticipate catching up to Morten midseason or thereabout, and I guess at the end of the year I'd be 46. I'm not putting anything out of reach."

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Updated February 22, 2018

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