It wasn't outlandish to ponder Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne's future after he fell like lump on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf during the third quarter of Indianapolis' Week Seven victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The injury looked bad, and, as it turned out, it was.
Torn ACL. Season done. At 35-years-old, career in doubt?
Yes, the fourteen-year veteran will return in 2014, and Wayne is still a strong veteran presence within the team dynamic. But, the reality is that ACL injuries have a history of limiting the effectiveness of an athlete post-surgery and recovery. Modern medicine has taken what once was a career-destroying injury - old school Colts fans remember Steve Emtman's career crushed by ACL injuries in the early-90s - and tranformed it into one that can be coped with.
But, Wayne is 35, and the last time the Colts saw a once-great, dynamic, veteran receiver on heir roster suffer through a tough knee injury, that player came back less explosive, less productive, and less of a game-changer.
Colts WR depth
Back in 2008, then-veteran Colts receiver Marvin Harrison returned for what would be his final year in the NFL. He'd suffered through a long 2007 season, dealing with a knee injury he'd sustained coincidentally against the Denver Broncos during Week Four. He played in only six games that year, including the Colts' divisional round loss to the Chargers in the playoffs. When Harrison returned in 2008, he was a step slower. Less dynamic. In 15 games, Harrison had only 60 receptions, his worst full season output since his rookie year in 1996.
Harrison was 36 when his career ended. Wayne will be 36 in November.
Like Marvin the Great, Reggie Wayne is hoping to bounce back in some way. Teammates like Andrew Luck are already calling him a "freak" for how he has healed and conditioned himself prior to the start of
OTAs voluntary workouts this week. Wayne himself is, apparently, using perceived slights from the media as motivation to have a great season in 2014. He told Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star:
"You guys motivate me,'' Wayne said of the media. "You guys say that I can't do it. I'm 35. I'm over the hill. No way I can come back the same.
"I wasn't a big newspaper reader, but now I've become one. Hopefully I can get you guys to sing another tune. Next time I read it, maybe you guys will be saying I've found the fountain of youth.''
Now, with all due respect to Reggie, I don't recall reading, hearing, or seeing even a hint of criticism/doubt from local Indianapolis media about whether or not he'll return in 2014. Wayne wants to prove these "naysayers," as he calls them, wrong and return to his Pro Bowl form.
Heck, I don't even know any national media types who have doubted Wayne will return So, again, no disrespect to Reggie, but I think he's making up these boogeymen.
That said, if No. 87 wants to use phantom critics as motivation, good for him. It'll just be good to see him out there again in a Colts uniform. Wayne is entering the final year of a three-year, $17.5 million deal he signed in 2012. Whether age, injury, or a lack of a new contract makes 2014 Wayne's final season with the Colts, he needs 97 catches to pass Marvin Harrison on the club's all-time receptions list, which would also put him third on the all-time NFL list.
If Wayne gets 97 catches in 2014, he's friggin' Superman, and he can play for as long as he wants! Wayne is expected to be cleared to participate on April 25th.