After 24 years of playing in the NFL, Adam Vinatieri has decided to hang up his cleats for good. The NFL's all-time leading scorer made the announcement on Tuesday during an appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show."
Vinatieri spent eight seasons in Indianapolis as McAfee's teammate, so it was fitting that he turned to his good friend to make the announcement.
Father Time eventually catches up to everyone in the NFL, but he had a rough time chasing down the 48-year-old Vinatieri, who started his NFL career all the way back in 1996. During his 24 years in the league, Vinatieri spent 10 seasons with the Patriots (1996-2005) and 14 seasons with the Colts (2006-2019).
Although Vinatieri struggled over the final few games of his career in 2019, that's not what anyone is going to remember when they look back on his more than two decades in the NFL. Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 1996, Vinatieri has made some of the biggest kicks in NFL history.
Over the course of his career, Vinatieri hit a total of 14 game-winning kicks that came on the final play of the game in either fourth quarter or overtime, which is tied for the most in NFL history.
Vinatieri basically kickstarted the Patriots dynasty in 2001 with a field goal that Patriots coach Bill Belichick still refers to as the best kick of all time. With just under 35 seconds to play in a divisional playoff game against the Raiders, Vinatieri somehow nailed a 45-yard field goal in a blizzard-like conditions to send the game to overtime.
"I would say it was by far the greatest kick I have ever seen," Belichick said in October 2018. "The conditions were very difficult. There were probably three to four inches of snow on the ground. It was a soft snow that kind of didn't go away. I mean, there was no way to get around it. The magnitude of the kick was significant. It's got to be the greatest kick of all time."
After sending the game to OT, Vinatieri iced things in overtime with a game-winning field goal from 23 yards out.
Not only did Vinatieri provide the deciding points in the playoff game against the Raiders, but he also did the exact same thing just two weeks later in Super Bowl XXXVI.
In a game where New England went in as a 14-point underdog to the Rams, the Patriots were able to walk away with their first Super Bowl win in franchise history thanks to Vinatieri, who drilled a 48-yard field goal as time expired.
Just two years later, Vinatieri would do it again. In a Super Bowl XXXVIII win over the Panthers, the kicker proved that he had ice in his veins when he nailed a 41-yard field goal in the closing seconds to give the Patriots a 32-29 win over Carolina.
Out of the first three Super Bowls that the Patriots won in the Belichick era, two of them came courtesy of Vinatieri's right leg.
Despite his success in New England, Vinatieri eventually left the team after 10 seasons because his asking price was too high. At 35 years old, Vinatieri left the Patriots in 2006 to sign a free agent deal with the Colts.
Vinatieri actually picked the perfect year to sign with the Colts, because he ended up winning another Super Bowl during his first year with the team. Although he didn't hit the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XLI, he did score 11 points in Indy's 29-17 win over Chicago while earning his fourth Super Bowl ring.
The kicker lasted so long in Indianapolis that he actually spent more seasons in Indy (14) than he did in New England (10). As the NFL's oldest player, Vinatieri will now pass that mantle on to his former teammate, Tom Brady. Speaking of Brady, the Buccaneers quarterback is the only player in NFL history who has played in more postseason games than Vinatieri. Thanks to his success with the Colts and Patriots, Vinatieri played in a total of 32 playoff games, which trails only Brady, who has played in 45 playoff games.
Although Vinatieri can't quite match Brady in the amount of postseason games played, he does hold the NFL record for most overall games played at 397. The 48-year-old also holds the record for most consecutive field goals made (44) and most overtime field goals (11).
Vinatieri will retire as the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2,673 points and it's unlikely anyone will catch him anytime soon, if they can catch him at all. Ironically, the closest active player to catching him on the all-time scoring list is Stephen Gostkowski, who has scored 1,875 points in 15 seasons. Gostkowski, who replaced Vinatieri in New England back in 2006, would probably have to play at least six more seasons to have a chance at breaking the record.
The retiring kicker has also scored more postseason points than any other player in NFL history (238).
Vinatieri actually wanted to add to his scoring total by playing in 2020, but he never got a chance to return to the field due to the pandemic. Vinatieri went into the 2020 season dealing with a knee injury and the pandemic slowed down his rehab, which kept him from trying to earn a roster spot with one of the NFL's 32 teams last season.
The kicking legend will be leaving the game as the most prolific kicker in NFL history. The three-time Pro Bowler has kicked more field goals (599) and more extra points (874) than any other player ever. He also led the NFL in accuracy three times (2002, 2004, 2014), and will end his career as one of the 25 most accurate kickers in NFL history.
If Vinatieri ends up making it to the Hall of Fame, and he seems like a lock, he'd become just the third true kicker to be inducted, joining Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen.