On Tuesday, as the longest-tenured current Colt returned to the practice field in Indianapolis, the Colt who has played in the most games with the franchise in history did as well. Only unlike Robert Mathis, Reggie Wayne wasn't at the Colts' West 56th Street complex in Indy. Instead, he was suiting up for his first practice with the New England Patriots, the Colts' biggest rivals.
Reggie Wayne, wearing number 15, in a Patriots jersey. It's a sight no one could have possibly imagined ever seeing, yet that's the reality we face right now. The decision, however, wasn't motivated by by Wayne wanting to get revenge on his former team for not re-signing him. He's not a traitor, as much as the local paper might imply. The decision was motivated by one thing: "I want to win, point blank," Wayne said as he met with New England media for the first time.
He wanted to return to the Colts - that was, without any doubt, his first choice. But they didn't want him back. Wayne wanted to play one more year, and he wanted to play for a contender. That's why, though Wayne received "a lot of serious calls from some good teams," he decided that the Patriots "felt like this was the best place."
Now, after spending time with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Wayne will be playing with Tom Brady, who he called "one of the best to ever do it." He added that, "even though I was on the opposite side, you see that from afar and that's what you want. You want to be part of that. You want to learn how to put that into your repertoire. Pro Bowls, before the games, after the games, it was always mutual respect. He's one of the best."
While winning was his major motivation, there's also another one: he wants to prove he can still play. The Reggie Wayne we saw late last year is not indicative of the receiver that Reggie Wayne has been, and he knows it. He also knows that it was largely due to injury (which he acknowledged plagued him from week one throughout the rest of the season) and he wants to come back so that the last image in people's minds of Wayne isn't that hobbled receiver who couldn't catch late last year.
"I just want to finish healthy, finish strong," Wayne said. "I know what I can do. I know what I'm capable of. I'm thankful for this opportunity… The only thing I can do is let my work speak for itself. I know what I can do. I know what I can bring to the table. I just have to get caught up and get on the same page with everybody, and I'll be able to show what I can do. Whoever those naysayers are, just watch me work."
Wayne was also asked if he had a message for Colts fans, but he realized that this wasn't the time to do that. He's trying to get adjusted with his new team - midway through preseason, putting him a bit behind others, and that's his current focus. "No time for that right now," he said about reflecting and sending a message to Colts fans. Similarly, the October 18th game in Indianapolis against the Colts isn't in Wayne's focus right now either. "I don't even see that right now. I'm worried about today, getting better, figuring out this playbook and figuring out my way around this maze. When that time comes, it comes."
That time will come in week six on Sunday Night Football, and it will be a chance for Colts fans to see one of the greatest players in franchise history suiting up for the opposing team, wearing number 15 and wearing a Patriots jersey. It will be rough to see, but it's nothing personal against the Colts. It's a business. And since the Colts didn't want him back, Wayne opted to go to the team he felt had the best chance to win this year among the teams interested. Hopefully he's wrong about that, but you can't really fault him for making the choice.