Earlier today, former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots. The Colts opted not to re-sign him earlier this offseason, but Wayne wanted to play one more year for a contender.
The Patriots are expected to be the biggest obstacle to the Colts winning the AFC, and now New England will be helped out by a former Colt - not just any former Colt, either, but Reggie Wayne. While it's going to be weird to see Wayne in a Patriots uniform, the common theme among Colts coaches and teammates today was of them wishing their former teammate well.
"For him to have that jersey on will be weird, no question,'' kicker Adam Vinatieri said, according to FOX59's Mike Chappell. Vinatieri, of course, was on the other end of such a switch - coming from the Patriots to the Colts in 2006. "I think our fans will welcome him with open arms. I remember seeing Edgerrin James come back and Jeff Saturday . . . and they do that nice ‘Thank you for everything.' I've been a teammate of his for nine years and I've seen all the great things he's done. I'll cheer for him, too.''
Head coach Chuck Pagano, a friend of Wayne's since their days at Miami together and his coach with the Colts for the past three years, had similar sentiments. "I think it's obviously a great thing for Reggie and his family," Pagano said. "We all know he wanted to play another year, so that's tremendous. Extremely happy for him. I'm sure everybody in this building, all his teammates, all the coaches are excited for him. He's got another opportunity."
As for it being tough on the fans? Pagano answered that one yesterday, before Wayne had even signed with the Patriots. "They've been through it before, right? It happened a few years ago," Pagano said, of course referring to Peyton Manning's departure in 2012. "It's tough on everybody."
Punter Pat McAfee also recalled watching Manning - a former teammate of his - leave, which drove home the point that the NFL is a business. "We're happy for [Reggie], but it's going to stink to have one of the greatest wide receivers in Colts history going up north to help them out," McAfee said, according to ESPN's Mike Wells. "When everything went to hell in that 2-14 year and you see Peyton Manning suit up in another uniform, that's when it all hit me that literally anybody could be somewhere else. It's a business.''
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was welcomed into the NFL by Wayne and learned a ton from the veteran receiver, coming to call Wayne his older brother. He too is happy for Reggie. "That's great for him," Hilton said. "Great accomplishment. I talked to him all of last night, so that was kind of fun. I look forward to seeing where he goes, and I can't wait to see him out there playing football again."
Hilton knows it'll be weird to see Wayne as a Patriot, but he's happy that Wayne will get one more chance - something he really wanted. "It'd be weird, but like I said, I can't wait to just see him go out there and play," Hilton added. "I know he wants to play one more year, and I just can't wait to see him out there. He worked so hard this offseason trying to get back, and to be able to get a shot, it means a lot."