Reggie Wayne is one of the most beloved Colts on the team, so when he went down on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium, it got even quieter than usual. That is, until a "Reggie! Reggie!" chant broke out. A team captain and future Hall of Fame wide receiver, the loss of Wayne was huge for the team. But even though Wayne wasn't on the field with his teammates, he was on the sidelines with them and really functioned as an assistant coach. He was always involved in the game anyway and would take the time to talk to the younger receivers on the sideline during the games trying to help them.
He's still working hard to try to help them on the field in 2014 instead of just from the sidelines. Several people have asked me how Reggie is doing and if he's coming back, and the answer: he's absolutely coming back, and his rehab is going well.
In fact, Reggie said on his radio show on WNDE last week that he is going to start doing "straight ahead running" on January 25 - which is this Saturday. "I'm looking forward to doing that. I've been walking quite often lately. I get to run on a treadmill and that's basically it," Wayne said.
On the Monday after the season ended, Wayne spoke to the media. "The knee is great. The knee is so far, so good, just moving forward from there," he said. As far as a projected return goes, Reggie said that, "I haven't even looked that far. I'm really just taking it one day at a time. Right now, everything's going pretty well. As long as we don't have no setbacks, it should be when everybody else is grinding I should be out there grinding with them."
He also spoke about how he hasn't lost any confidence. "I'm very, very, very confident I can come back better than I was," he said. "One thing about this time, it was an opportunity for my body to heal a little bit. Hopefully, I stole a year, you know? We'll go from there."
Reggie also offered some perspective on his injury, saying that, "It humbles you, you know what I'm saying, it really does. A lot of stuff in life you take for granted. This was a time for me to sit back and be appreciative. I was put with a certain role, in a different role than I am used to, but it was cool. It was fun. It didn't end the way we wanted to. We know we have a lot of work to do. Hopefully, next year will be a different outcome." He also said that it was hard not being out there fighting with his teammates, especially when things weren't going great, and that he hopefully will be back out there fighting with his teammates again next year. He made sure to add that he is really proud of his teammates this year.
Head coach Chuck Pagano also talked about Wayne's progress on the Monday following the season's end:
"As far as Reggie goes, it's like I said many times before, you can't put a price tag on what he's done for this organization, what he did for this team and organization this year after he was injured. And a lot of guys, but specifically Reg, he was here every single day. He beat the trainers here all the time. I'd hear it all the time that he beat those guys into the training room. He spent a great deal of time, he's way ahead of schedule, in there rehabbing. But the rest of the time that he was in the building was spent with the offense, in meetings, mentoring and tutoring that young group of wide receivers. And I think between what Charlie Williams, our wide receivers coach, did and Pep (Hamilton) and the rest of the offensive staff and the players themselves, the time that they put in, obviously you could see the development and growth of those guys as we moved past Reggie's injury. And so again, you can't put a price tag on what Reggie did."
Running back Vick Ballard, who also is recovering from a torn ACL, told ESPN's Mike Wells about how Reggie Wayne is motivating him to return from his injury:
"Reggie, he comes here and stays all day, gets two or three rounds of rehab in," said Ballard, who is 12 years younger than Wayne. "Once I saw him do it, I was like, 'Hell, why can't I do it, too?' When I leave here, I go home and sit on the couch, so it definitely changed my perspective on it."
Speaking of Ballard, how's he doing in his recovery from a torn ACL suffered in practice just a few days before the week two game versus the Dolphins? "I'll be ready for training camp," Ballard said when meeting with the media at season's end. "Right now they got me doing a little low-impact training, sometimes a little treadmill work. So I'm getting a little better every day."
Another key offensive player, tight end Dwayne Allen, is also recovering from a season-ending injury suffered in the first game of the season. Asked if he'll be ready for OTAs, Allen said, "I hope so. I hope so. Medically, I'll be cleared sometime the end of February, but whether they allow me to participate in the OTAs, that's up to management." Asked a follow-up question of if training camp was a definite, then, he answered, "Yeah, I assume. But again, that's up to management. Health-wise, would I be ready? Yes."
No matter what moves the Colts make this offseason in adding players, the biggest additions they will get will be Reggie Wayne, Vick Ballard, and Dwayne Allen coming back from injuries. So far, they're making progress and they all should be back in time to have a big impact next season in the Colts offense in year two under Pep Hamilton.