INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Gore and Adam Vinatieri have been defying the odds for years.
Both want one more shot.
On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts’ two seemingly ageless wonders acknowledged they would each like to play another season, meaning Sunday’s season finale against Houston won’t become a retirement party.
“I know I still can play, and I know I want to help a team,” Gore said. “I don’t want to just be part of a team, I want to help a team, and I don’t want anyone to say I rode the bench to get a ring.”
Perhaps it sounds far-fetched for a team in transition, like the Colts (3-12), to re-sign a running back who turns 35 in May or a kicker who turns 45 on Thursday.
But these are no typical old guys with expiring contracts.
Gore and Vinatieri are two of the best to ever play their positions and have become revered faces around the locker room largely because they continue to play at a high level when most guys their age are resting comfortably.
Vinatieri, the longest-tenured Colts player at 12 seasons, is 27 of 32 on field goals this season. Two of his misses came in a Buffalo blizzard, and he’s made 4 of 5 from 50 yards or more.
Gore enters the final weekend needing 139 yards rushing for a second straight 1,000-yard season, which would allow him to join John Riggins and John Henry Johnson as the only players in NFL history with two 1,000-yard seasons after turning 33.
Besides, it won’t be easy replacing two of the team’s most respected spokesmen.
“He keeps breaking record after record and climbing the charts,” coach Chuck Pagano said, referring to Gore. “Great teammate, great pro, warrior. Again, a consummate, consummate professional. Talk about a guy that comes to work every single day, nobody with greater passion and love for this game. He’s a football player.”
A darn good player, too.
He’s played more consecutive games (111) and made more consecutive starts (107) than any active running back in the NFL.
His streak of 12 consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards from scrimmage is second all-time to Emmitt Smith (13).
He easily outlasted the five backs taken ahead of him in the 2005 draft: Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, J.J. Arrington and Eric Shelton.
And despite playing behind an offensive line with eight different starting combinations this season, Gore could still join Curtis Martin, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Smith as the only players to ever record 10 or more 1,000-yard seasons. Smith is the all-time leader with 11.
Plus, Gore needs only 176 yards to pass Curtis Martin for No. 4 on the league’s career rushing list.
But Gore also knows there’s more to football than mere numbers.
“(Dick) LeBeau came up to me after the (Tennessee) game and said, ‘You don’t get the credit you deserve, but you’re still one of the best backs in this league,'” said Gore, who was undervalued coming out of Miami after tearing the ACLs in his right and left knees in college. “I have young guys come up to me after games and say they want to train with me and they don’t know how I do it. It’s God, it’s training and it’s love for the game.”
Vinatieri has been every bit as reliable.
Playing with a new long snapper and a new holder this season, Vinatieri has already topped the 100-point mark to extend his own league record to 20 seasons. One more would make Vinatieri, a four-time Super Bowl champion, the league’s career scoring leader. He trails Morten Andersen by 83 points heading into this week’s game against the Texans (4-11).
It’s the first time a top-five rusher and a top-three scorer have played on the same team since Jason Hanson and Barry Sanders were teammates in Detroit. But Hanson hadn’t even recorded 1,000 career points when Sanders suddenly retired.
“I’ve got a game left on my contract, obviously, and then plan on playing again next year,” Vinatieri said. “I feel like my body is still in good shape, and I can help and contribute to a team. So, hopefully it’s here. We’ll see. It’s a business. I understand how all that works, so we’ll see where it goes.”
If Andrew Luck is healthy, both believe the Colts could turn things around quickly and would be interested in staying with Indy.
But there’s no certainty the Colts would be interested. First-year general manager Chris Ballard made it clear last offseason he wanted younger players on the roster.
Then again, there’s no clear-cut successor to Gore or Vinatieri, either, and they could use the experience and stability with a potentially tumultuous offseason looming.
“I enjoy playing on teams that win games,” Vinatieri said. “It’s fun playing in January, February. It’s fun having a chance to play for a championship, and that definitely weighs in on all decisions.”
NOTES: Indy signed quarterback Brad Kaaya to the active roster after putting cornerback Rashaan Melvin on injured reserve with an injured hand. Kaaya had been on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad. … The Colts also added defensive tackle Johnathan Calvin to the practice squad.