Nine months ago this past Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts were closing out a massive Sunday Night Football win over the previously undefeated Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning's return to Indy. In the fourth quarter of that game, star wide receiver Reggie Wayne went down to get a low pass and went to the ground clutching his knee. And just like that, Reggie had torn his ACL and was lost for the season.
As he lay on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, realizing that his season was likely over, the crowd began the famous "Reggie!" chant, but Reggie was convinced to get back to hear that chant when he was scoring touchdowns, not laying on the field injured.
Today, after nine hard months of rehab, Reggie Wayne was back on the field for the Colts, and he couldn't be happier. "This is what I work hard for," Reggie said. "This is all the two and three-a-days and rehabbing and stuff like that. This is what it's about. Today felt pretty doggone good." When he ran out on the practice field for the first time today, with his jersey tucked halfway up his stomach like normal and while strapping on his gloves, the fans watching practice today gave the star receiver a pretty nice ovation. In response, Reggie turned toward the crowd and gave a fist pump. And throughout the practice, Reggie got back to being Reggie. He said that, other than being limited a bit and having to do what the coaches say, he "felt like the old Reggie."
He certainly looked like it, too. The highlight of the day with Reggie came via a perfect pass from quarterback Andrew Luck, as Reggie was running down the left sideline with Darius Butler close behind, and Luck threw the ball perfectly over Butler's head and hands and right into Reggie's hands, perfectly in stride. What was clear was that, even though missing half of last season, the timing between Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne was still there and that Reggie will be a big factor this year. It was hard to tell exactly how effective Reggie will be, but there was really nothing I could tell when watching practice today that would suggest that Reggie had lost a step - other than, of course, the fact that he was limited, but he'll gradually get more playing time as camp goes on.
Reggie had talked back at minicamp about how he was going to bring his boxing gloves to camp in case Chuck Pagano wouldn't let him go to start training camp, and he said the same thing yesterday. It sounds like Reggie thinks that his coach won round one of the imaginary fight. "We want to stay the course, even if I don't agree to it. I give Coach Pagano the first round, he won this first round." Reggie said that he did over half the practice and wanted to do the rest, but that Pagano told him to take it easy. Reggie's eager to get back to a full go, but that'll come with time and it's the right thing to take it slow. From what we did see from Reggie Wayne today, however, it's clear that he will be a factor and it was great to see him back.
When asked about whether any emotions came flooding back today when reflecting on the long road back, Reggie gave a perfect answer that is totally a Reggie Wayne answer: "No, I'll leave that for retirement. I'm good."
Luckily for the Colts, that retirement is probably still a few years away. Reggie Wayne is back.