INDIANAPOLIS – On a day that involved more than two dozen personnel decisions, many of which delivered career-altering news to players, one stood out for the Indianapolis Colts.
Rodrigo Blankenship is staying put.
The undrafted rookie kicker out of Georgia won his training-camp duel with incumbent Chase McLaughlin. It marks the first time in their Indy era the Colts will head into a season with a rookie handling the kicking responsibilities.
What a seismic change for the franchise. Nine months ago, that job belonged to Adam Vinatieri. He had been their kicker since signing as a free agent prior to 2006.
The battle between Blankenship and McLaughlin was necessary in the aftermath of Vinatieri’s injury-plagued and erratic 2019. He was placed on the injured reserve list Dec. 9 and underwent knee surgery. Vinatieri was in the final year of his contract and no attempt was made to re-sign the NFL’s all-time scoring leader and future Hall of Famer.
In the absence of preseason games, Frank Reich did whatever possible to simulate game-like situations during camp. That included two kicking competitions when the Colts practiced at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In those two sessions, McLaughlin was 12-of-15 and Blankenship 11-of-15.
“Two good kickers,’’ Reich said. “These are two NFL kickers right there. These guys both need to be playing in the league.’’
Blankenship will be doing his kicking in Indy. He’s 23 and the recipient of last season’s Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker. Blankenship will be just the sixth opening-day kicker for the Colts, following Vinatieri, Mike Vanderjagt, Cary Blanchard, Dean Biasucci and Raul Allegre.
Blankenship keeps alive the Colts’ streak of having at least one undrafted rookie make the opening-day roster for 22 consecutive seasons. That’s the NFL’s longest active streak.
The Blankenship-over-McLaughlin decision demands the most attention, but was one of many by the Colts Saturday as teams had to reduce their rosters to 53.
One of the moves by the team actually was a non-move. The Colts left defensive end Kemoko Turay on the physically unable to perform list, which means he’s unable to practice for at least the first six games. He’s been in rehab mode since breaking his right ankle Oct. 6 at Kansas City.
The other moves:
Waived: defensive tackle Robert Windsor, its sixth-round pick out of Penn State; quarterback Chad Kelly; offensive linemen Jake Eldrenkamp, Brandon Hitner, Carter O’Donnell and Javon Patterson; defensive linemen Kameron Cline, Gerri Green and Chris Williams; tight end Dominique Dafney, Farrod Green and Andrew Vollert; cornerbacks Andre Chachere, Lafayette Pitts, Jackson Porter, Travis Reed and Tremon Smith; safety Donald Rutledge; and wideouts Reece Fountain, DeMichael Harris and Marcus Johnson.
Released (do not go through waivers): tight end Xavier Grimble and center Joey Hunt.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.