Playoff game creates emotional tug for Colts’ vets
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Reggie Wayne has won more games with the Colts than Peyton Manning, and stuck around Indianapolis longer than Marvin Harrison.
He’d rather pass his ex-teammates in an even more meaningful category: Super Bowl rings.
The 36-year-old receiver with the fun-loving personality and the blue-collar work ethic is intent on making his 12th, and perhaps final playoff appearance, the most rewarding of his 14-year career.
“New Year’s Eve, I’m saying to myself, ‘Man, when was the last time a (Colts’) season ended before New Year’s Eve?’” Wayne said Friday. “I sat up there and said, ‘Well, it’s either go to a New Year’s Party or go practice football.’ I’d rather practice football.”
Wayne has never willingly taken plays or practices off, which is why he remains one of the respected players in the locker room and around his adopted hometown.
And although Wayne doesn’t appear to be the kind of guy who wants to give up his dream job early, an expiring contract and an increasingly banged-up body might not leave him with a choice.
After ending 2013 on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Wayne insisted he could defy the odds and make a comeback in 2014. The Louisiana native reluctantly agreed to take occasional practices off at training camp and throughout the season to keep him in better health.
The plan seemed to work initially as Wayne got off to a solid start. But on Oct. 19, against Cincinnati, Wayne tore the triceps in his left arm and hasn’t been the same since.
Things looked even bleaker last weekend when Wayne pulled his groin at Tennessee, an injury the former University of Miami star said won’t keep him out Sunday against the Bengals (10-5-1) in what could be Wayne’s final home game.
His stats are down, too. Though Wayne only missed one game, he wound up with the worst numbers of any season that he played 10 or more games — 64 catches, 779 yards and two touchdowns — since 2002.
Not surprisingly, The combination has led to increasing speculation about Wayne’s possible retirement.
Wayne has acknowledged he wants to speak with his family before making a decision, and on his weekly radio show this week, Wayne said he didn’t want to play for another team.
Colts owner Jim Irsay recently told The Associated Press he planned to wait until after the season to discuss Wayne’s future with general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano, but Wayne’s teammates are already lobbying him to return.
“I’m not going to let him leave me right now,” Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton said Friday. “I’ll have a talk with him whenever that time comes. I told him ‘Talk to your family, talk to your kids, but when you’re finished with that, make sure you come talk to me.’”
A year ago, 41-year-old kicker Adam Vinatieri found himself in a similar situation. The Colts (11-5) wound up re-signing the oldest player in the league to a two-year deal, and Vinatieri rewarded them with a nearly perfect season and an All-Pro selection.
This year the Colts will have to make decisions about Wayne, 34-year-old defensive end Cory Redding, who followed Pagano to Indy three years ago to help rebuild the Colts defense, and backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a former Super Bowl starter who began his career by backing up Brett Favre and could end it by backing up Andrew Luck.
“I’ve got a 13-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son and they’re all into sports, so I don’t want to miss out on that,” said Hasselbeck, who turns 40 in September. “But I’d be shocked if, after the season, I didn’t want to play next year.”
Wayne has plenty of other reasons to keep playing.
With eight more playoff catches, Wayne would join Jerry Rice (151) as the only players with 100 postseason receptions. Wayne also needs 48 yards to pass Cliff Branch (1,289) for third and 74 yards to pass Michael Irvin (1,315) for second on the career postseason list. Rice is the leader at 2,245.
Wayne also is within 33 receptions and 236 yards of breaking Harrison’s franchise records, and, of course, he’d take another shot at a ring — regardless of what happens this year.
“When you’re playing the game, you’re just telling yourself, ‘I’m not ready to go home. I’m not ready to pack my locker. I’m not ready to move into an offseason just yet,’” Wayne said. “So you go out there and you give it everything you’ve got. You go out there and you want to make sure you leave no stones unturned. Whenever my number’s called, I just want to make sure I shine.”
Notes: Pagano said guard Hugh Thornton (shoulder) will not play Sunday, meaning the Colts will be without their two starters on the right side of their offensive line. One possible solution would be start Joe Reitz at right tackle, where he made one start this season, and Lance Louis at right guard, where he’s made six starts this season. ... Backup offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley (ankle) missed Friday’s workout and is listed as doubtful. ... The only other players to sit out Friday were Wayne, who is listed as probable, and running back Trent Richardson (illness), who is questionable.