Quite the opposite for the 44-year-old veteran.
It has been the same today as it was 21 years ago, when he entered the NFL at 23 with the New England Patriots in 1996.
“For me, it’s less about strength and more about recovery time,” Vinatieri said. “Being able to go out and kick a bunch of balls, switch the button off and be able to feel good enough to do it again a day or two later. That for me is big.”
Vinatieri’s routine has the NFL’s oldest player and arguably the league’s best clutch kicker just 167 points from passing Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen as the league’s all-time points leader. He’ll likely have to play next season — he’ll be 46 by the end of the 2018 campaign — to pass Andersen.
“Adam has had a great career. And if you look at all of his body of work, he struggled in the beginning and found his way and made huge kicks in the playoffs and Super Bowl, and all of that is documented,” Andersen said. “So I have nothing but admiration for what Adam has been able to do over a long period of time. It remains to be seen if he breaks my record. If he does, he’s to be congratulated, because that’s a high mark and a high bar. Records are made to be broken. I’ve held many of them for over a decade now.”
Vinatieri follows a strict routine during the offseason. He doesn’t kick a ball between the end of the season and the end of April, when the Colts report for offseason workouts. He only kicks twice a week with a Nerf-type football, so that he can get his leg swinging again. Then he progresses up to a regular football, which he will kick less frequently but from further distances — about 30 to 35 yards out.
“And after minicamp ends [in June], I’ll stay on the same two to three times a week of kicking,” Vinatieri said. “I don’t want to overdo it, but I make sure I’m ready. I don’t think anybody wants to come to camp not working out and all of a sudden your leg gets heavy. I don’t ever take an extended period off between minicamp and the start of training camp.”
Vinatieri laughed when asked how much he has had to change his diet the older he has gotten. He laughed even harder when talking about the sweets that his wife makes at home.
“Vinatieri wants to win at everything. It fuels the fire and gets him going. I think when he plays against his kids, he buries them. That’s a Hall of Famer right there.”
Former Colts punter Pat McAfee
“Have you seen me with my shirt off?” he said. “I’d have a [former Colts receiver] Griff Whalen six-pack if I watched everything I ate. I do try to eat more greens and more fruits and vegetables and less red meat. We’ll have spaghetti squash, instead of regular pasta. Will I still get a slice of pizza? Will I drink a beer or two? Absolutely. You still have to live, but I try to do things in moderation.”
He’s at the age when most NFL players are retired and playing golf. The last thing they’re thinking about is showing up at the facility every day to practice.
But Vinatieri, who is in the final year of his contract, still has that drive. He enjoys being around his teammates (some young enough that he could be their father’s age) while practicing, lifting weights with the linebackers and launching 50-yard field goals. He wants to play one more season beyond this one and win at least one more Super Bowl.
“The way I look at it is, if you’re going to play, you better put 100 percent effort into it all the time,” Vinatieri said. “This is a hard enough sport when you’re giving 100 percent. If you’re giving anything less than that, it’ll swallow you up. What keeps me wanting to continue, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. This is awesome. For me, I know it’s getting to the point where I will be done in a couple of years. If I can put a good product on the field and if I can help my team win, why not keep going?”
Vinatieri is not showing any signs of slowing down. He had made 82 of his past 89 field goal attempts over the past three seasons, and he only has missed three extra-point attempts over the past seven seasons.
“I love the juice that he has,” said Colts special teams coach Tom McMahon. “We call it ‘feed the stud’ in our room. We’re going to ‘feed the stud,’ just kick it as hard as you can and as high as you can every single time. Guys that start taking things off of it, start aiming, that’s not who Vinnie is.”
Vinatieri doesn’t “punch” the ball, which causes kicks to go flat. He truly kicks it and follows through. And when he didn’t do it, former Colts punter and holder Pat McAfee said he would remind the veteran place-kicker what he was doing and Vinatieri had no problem accepting the feedback.
“The big thing in what’s added to his longevity is that we work on his trajectory,” McMahon said. “Everything we try to do, we try to get the ball up; and that’s his main focus, so he doesn’t think about 10 different things. Just get that ball up, because as you get older, you start kicking flat balls. He’s not even close to doing that yet. If you look at his leg, it’s not old. He doesn’t feel that. He takes care of his body like a 21-year-old. I can’t answer it any other way.”
Andersen and Jan Stenerud are the only two true kickers in the Hall of Fame. Vinatieri should be joining them next, following a career that includes four Super Bowl rings and 26 game-winning field goals — a career that could be capped by the NFL’s all-time points total.
“Are you s—ting me? Of course he’s a Hall of Famer,” McAfee said. “You need one kick to win a game and there’s nobody who wants it more than Adam Vinatieri. Normally kickers don’t have that killer mentality. Normally they’re known for being flaky and standoffish. Vinatieri wants to win at everything. It fuels the fire and gets him going. I think when he plays against his kids, he buries them. That’s a Hall of Famer right there.
“I’m also betting that Adam Vinatieri will play as many years as it takes to become the all-time leading scorer, because in a game that revolves around points, to be the guy that has scored the most points in the history of the game is a pretty cool thing to have. And he’s so close; you can’t come this close and not finish it off.”