The Colts most consistent offensive player in the last 13 seasons was sidelined for the majority of 2013 due to a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee.
And now, Reggie Wayne has to fight an uphill battle to get back to high-quality football.
Wayne was injured in a Week 7 match-up against the Broncos on a non-contact play. He was wide open, but Andrew Luck had to make an inaccurate throw in the face of a blitz from Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan. Reggie stretched out for the catch that was out of his reach, awkwardly tweaking his knee, despite not even being touched on the play.
ACL injuries have been long documented as the worst possible injury for a running back or wide receiver to sustain due to a long period of recovery that comes with the surgery and personal training. Wayne will likely miss much of training camp, or at least will have to be strictly no-contact due to the fragility of his leg. Wayne’s cuts won’t be as sharp, and he might experience difficulty on using his right leg as a plant or stability leg.
Before the injury, Wayne was on-pace for an 86 reception season for 1,150 yards and four touchdowns. He has always been a dominant receiver in football, shown in his eight (seven consecutive) 1,000 yard seasons with the Colts. He has never had an injury that has sidelined him for more than a quarter in his 13-year career, making him a consistent opponent to Father Time.
But in a game against the Denver Broncos, Father Time may have played his trump card. However, if there’s any player that could confidently come back from a significant injury, it’s Reggie Wayne.
Wayne will now headline a group of receivers for the Indianapolis Colts that is absolutely stacked. With a healthy Colts offense heading into 2014, Wayne will look to start beside Hakeem Nicks with T.Y. Hilton in the slot. Behind him sits a talented set of receivers, including rookie Donte Moncrief and promising relief prospects, Griff Whalen and Da’Rick Rogers. Starting tight end Dwayne Allen returns to join Coby Fleener after a solid season, with the three-headed attack at running back of Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard fully healthy.
However, if Wayne isn’t back to full strength, the effectiveness of all these talented players is hugely diminished.
Wayne has shown resilience in his career, as well as a desire to lead young players. The breakout of T.Y. Hilton is largely due to playing under the future Hall-of-Famer, and passing his knowledge on to Moncrief is paramount to the young receiver’s quick development in the offensive system. His style of possession receiving that he utilizes on the field has clicked really well with Andrew Luck, as well as his ability to find the first down marker to move the chains. Wayne’s football IQ is extremely high, and he uses his knowledge over his physical presence to make catches in open field.
Reggie Wayne’s return to the football field means everything to the Colts. While offensive weapons exist all over the field, he brings an authoritative sense and a veteran presence to the field. After he wiped out in Week 7, the Colts would go on a mediocre 3-3 run that included lopsided losses to the Rams, Cardinals and Bengals while also notching close one-possession wins against the Texans and Titans (twice). The team looked much weaker without the veteran presence; not even close to resembling the team that took out the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos. The loss of Wayne may have stretched into the playoffs, as Luck desperately needed a veteran presence in an ugly loss to the Patriots.
The road back to performance is a hard one, but Reggie Wayne means too much to this Indianapolis Colts team to not give everything he has to make an impact on the field in 2014, starting in Week 1. Father Time may have finally caught up the three-time All-Pro, but Reggie may have one season left of contribution to the Colts. No one expects him to be spectacular, but just being on the field brings an injection of life into the Colts offense.
However, I’m sure 900 yards and 5 touchdowns can still be squeezed out of Reggie in what may be his last season in Indianapolis.