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Offseason Decision Looms for Colts Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne: Retire or Return?

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Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne faces a tough decision to make this offseason: whether to retire or return to the Colts.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014-15 season ended on Sunday night for the Indianapolis Colts, as the team fell 45-7 in the AFC Championship game.  Just like that, an offseason that will bring with it many questions began for the Colts, earlier than they had hoped, but it began nonetheless.  One of the biggest questions in the minds of Colts fans will be the decision that star wide receiver Reggie Wayne has to make: retire or return for a 15th season.

After each year, Wayne loads up his car and makes the 16-hour drive home to Miami.  He'll start out the drive with music blaring in his car as he drives down the road.  "Then once I hit Nashville," Wayne said on Monday, "then I'll figure out the rest, make my outline. Go from there. One thing, I don't have a plan. I never had one. Just got to make a couple phone calls, say a couple of prayers and see which route the good Lord sends me."

It's not an easy decision for the longtime Colt.  He's 36-years old and will have offseason surgery to repair a torn triceps he suffered early in the season.  Because of the injuries, his play really dropped off and his role in the Colts' offense became nothing more than a decoy late in the season.  Over the last nine weeks of the season (including playoffs), Wayne caught 18 passes for 196 yards without a score - and that's including an 80-yard reception in week seventeen.  In the Colts' last two playoff games, Wayne didn't catch a single pass.

It was a sad decline to watch for an aging star and one of the greatest Colts in franchise history.  He ranks eighth in league history in receiving yards, seventh in receptions, and 22nd in touchdown catches.  In the playoffs, he has been equally impressive, as he ranks 4th in receiving yards (61 away from second), second in receptions, and tied for seventh in touchdown catches (three away from second).  He's just 235 yards and 32 receptions away from tying Marvin Harrison's franchise records for both career receiving yards and receptions (regular season).  He'll go into the Colts' Ring of Honor and likely the NFL Hall of Fame, but the question is whether he has played his last career game.

The decision won't be an easy one for Wayne, who is a free agent this offseason.  It's very clear: Reggie Wayne won't be playing elsewhere next season.  It's either in Indianapolis or nowhere.  And that's the decision he has to make.  He saw his role in the offense greatly decrease, and he struggled with his injuries.  He'll turn 37 years old during next season.  When healthy, does he think he can still play?  Does he still want to?  He talked earlier this season about wanting to spend more time with his family, and that will undoubtedly weigh heavily into his decision as well.

For those wanting a decision quickly, however, Reggie Wayne has news for you: he doesn't know what he's going to do next year, and he's going to take a step back before deciding.  "I do that anyway," Wayne said of taking a step back after the season ends.  "I did that when I was in the league for three years. You'll always get away, get away, relax and as you all know, have an adult beverage and get my thoughts together. Honestly, I don't have a plan right now really. I'd intended on winning yesterday, so I don't have a plan. As you can see, my locker's still messy. Now I have to clean it out."

Along with saying that the Colts expected to still be playing, he mentioned that the "last thought on my mind" was the possibility that Sunday's game might be his last.  He said he learned from his 2011 experience, when he really wondered whether it was his last as a Colt.  "That got me a lot of gray hair worrying about that," he said.  "That's something that I learned from, I said I'd never do again, and I vowed to myself I wouldn't do it. Now I'm here with you guys not knowing what's going to happen. I guess we're all in the same boat."

It's a decision that hasn't been reached yet and that won't be easy, but it's a notable one to be paying attention to.  Despite his struggles last year, Reggie Wayne is still among the greatest Colts in franchise history and a clear fan favorite.  And so, naturally, there are a lot of people wondering whether 87 will be back with the Colts in late July when they open training camp.  Reggie Wayne doesn't even know himself, and it's a decision with a lot of uncertainty.  One thing that is clear, however, is that it will be one of the biggest story lines to follow as it pertains to the Colts.