It has been a question in the back of the mind for most Colts fans for a while now, and in the forefront of their minds in the past few weeks: is the end drawing near for the playing career of Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne?
After all, he's 36-years old who has dealt with injuries the past two years and a decline in play this season. The discussion of retirement has been one much discussed by fans, but until today it hasn't really been by Wayne. That is, until another legendary veteran, RTV6 reporter Mike Chappell, talked to Wayne about it for a tremendous piece. Wrote Chappell:
"It's real, man," he told Chappell. "It's tough, it really is. You have to decide if you want to make that sacrifice again. A lot goes into it."
"Thirty-six, man," Reggie added. "Kids growing up. It's time for family decisions. They're 11, 5 and 3. They're doing stuff now. I've got an 11-year-old that's all over the place, doing things, playing football. It sucks when you hear he's playing defensive end and he got a sack/fumble to win a game and you ain't there."
Chappell also tweeted this after posting his story:
#colts Reggie Wayne said a few weeks ago his wife told him she was taking kids to the zoo. He told her, 'I want to go to the zoo, too.'@rtv6— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) December 5, 2014
Family has always been important to Reggie Wayne, and he has set his priorities straight. But with that comes the real consideration of life after football. And Wayne realizes that he's getting close to that. Perhaps this offseason, even. He's a free agent, but if he wants to come back the Colts will bring him back. One thing that Wayne made abundantly clear, however, was that he's going to end his career as a Colt.
"I know what I'm not going to do is go somewhere else and play for one year, two years," Reggie told Chappell. "Absolutely not. Nobody else. I don't have time to be dipping and dabbing, one year here, maybe one year somewhere else." Reminded by Chappell that Peyton Manning said the same thing, Wayne responded that, "I think Peyton was just blowing smoke and I'm telling you the truth. No place else. I don't have time to be a rookie again."
While the receiver confirmed what we already knew in that he'll be a Colt for life, the question now turns to whether the end of his playing days with the franchise is near. Reading the article and the quotes from Wayne, it's honestly pretty telling and makes it sound like retirement is more than just a "consideration." It's a very real possibility. Wayne wants to spend time with his kids and his wife. That's not to say he doesn't want to play football and doesn't want to win. But he realizes perhaps it'll be time to hang up the cleats.
One thing is for sure, however: he won't be doing so before he likely breaks Peyton Manning's franchise record for games played with the Colts. This Sunday will mark regular season game number 208 for Wayne, tying the record set by number 18. With a win, he'll tie Manning's franchise record for most wins while on the team (141). Wayne ranks second in franchise history in receptions (1,060), receiving yards (14,202), and receiving touchdowns (82), and he's nearing Marvin Harrison's receptions and yards records. He has already built a resume that will be pretty convincing to Hall of Fame voters.
More than that, Reggie Wayne has been a fan favorite for a long time, especially after he choose to return to Indianapolis for the rebuild in 2012. That earned him a special spot in the hearts of Colts fans forever, and he has become perhaps the most popular player on the team - and if not number one, then he's close to the top of that list. He's one of the favorite all-time players by many Colts fans, and the discussion of retirement is a sad one yet one that we knew was coming.
Nothing official has been decided yet, and Reggie Wayne will take some time after the season to consider things. But he opened up to Mike Chappell today, and based on Wayne's comments, retirement likely isn't far away from the star receiver who values family over football - like it should be.