Colts’ Wayne hoping to get on field vs Saints
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Reggie Wayne and Drew Brees spent most of August following the same script.
They tried to get healthy, stay on the practice field and convince their coaches they should play in the most significant week of the preseason.
Brees appears to have won his case and will direct the New Orleans Saints prolific offense against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
Wayne’s public and private lobbying efforts have so far been unsuccessful — even though he’s made it clear he’s ready to get started.
“I haven’t played since October. I’ve missed numerous practices in there. I just want to go in there and just (have some) fellowship with the guys a little bit,” said Wayne, who is a game-time decision for this winless Colts (0-2). “Preseason, the game itself is fun. Preseason, a lot of people think it’s nothing, but it’s very meaningful.
“I just want to go out there, and I want to experience it. I want to be out there with my teammates.”
While Colts coaches and players insist they don’t need to see the six-time Pro Bowl receiver prove anything, Wayne wants to show that the long, painful journey back from a torn ACL is complete.
Before the mid-October injury cost him the rest of the 2013 season, Wayne had played in 189 straight games — a stretch in which he emerged as Peyton Manning’s favorite target and became the steadying influence for young quarterback Andrew Luck, Manning’s successor.
After the injury, Wayne accepted his new role as a temporary receivers coach with a caveat: He would defy the odds and return to his old form at age 35.
So far, Wayne has been every bit as good as he’s promised.
In practice, he’s run precise routes, made acrobatic catches and drawn growing crowds with his eye-popping, post-practice workouts on the JUGS machine.
But coach Chuck Pagano still opted to play it safe by limiting Wayne to two practices every three days and not allowing him to take a snap in either of Indy’s first two preseason games, despite Wayne’s pleas.
“I feel like the Reggie of old. I really do,” said Wayne, who believes he’s stronger than when he reported to camp last month. “Nothing has stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. There’s no routes I can’t run. I feel fine. It’s more Coach Pagano and the Colts organization just wanting to see me healthy for Week 1.”
Wayne joked that he brought boxing gloves to training camp so he could “fight” his way onto the practice field if Pagano tried to hold him back. Later, he traded playful verbal jabs with Pagano about who would win if the two old pals ever stepped inside of a ring. On Thursday, Wayne suggested that Pagano was ignoring his text messages because he’s weary of the sales pitch.
But Pagano hasn’t strayed from the plan and will listen to the team doctors.
“Sometimes you’ve got to protect them from themselves, right? Guys that love the game, are passionate about the game like Reggie,” Pagano said. “He wants to be out there in the worst way. He wants to be out on that football field again. He wants to go compete.”
New Orleans coach Sean Payton faced a similar predicament early in camp.
Brees, who hasn’t missed a regular season start since 2006, was forced out by a strained left oblique muscle. With no meaningful games looming, Payton held the former Purdue star out for more than two weeks and didn’t let him return until Sunday. That’s allowing him to make his Lucas Oil Stadium debut about an hour southeast of where he played college ball.
He can’t wait.
“I want to get out there and feel comfortable,” Brees said. “I feel like this week has been great just to get back out and feel like I’m throwing the ball like I should. Now it’s just time to take it to the game field and go through this final dress rehearsal before the season.”
Payton hasn’t said how long Brees will play for the unbeaten Saints (2-0).
But Wayne would settle for anything right now, even just a series or two.
“I feel like I’m where I need to be, if not better. I’m in shape. I’m better in this offense,” he said. “Hopefully, we can see that transpire onto the field and, hopefully, we can see it soon.”
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