Colts welcome arrival of Wayne for offseason work
Reggie Wayne feels young again.
The 34-year-old receiver with six Pro Bowl appearances was back in Indianapolis on Wednesday putting names with faces, getting acclimated to about three dozen more new teammates, working with another new offensive coordinator and, yes, learning a new offense all over again.
Hey, at least he knows who the quarterback is at first glance.
''The last few years my main focus on Day 1 has been just getting to know my teammates, getting to know their names, getting to figure out where everybody comes from and then going into the playbook because at the end of the day, you are out there with them and they are out there with you and you are doing whatever you got to do for each other. So I think it would be bad to go out there and not know the guy next to you, his first and last name,'' Wayne said. ''It has been a challenge, but I'm getting it done. It's a little new to me still, but it's cool.''
From 2002 through 2011, Wayne didn't have to endure anything like this.
But after neck surgery shelved Manning for the 2011 season, Indianapolis completely rebuilt.
Longtime leaders such as Manning, Gary Brackett, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday were let go. Coach Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian, the architect of Indy's decade of success, were fired last year and suddenly Wayne was starting over.
Now things are new again.
Since last showing up in the Colts' locker room following a playoff loss to Baltimore in January, Wayne has lost another old friend, Dwight Freeney, who left for San Diego. Nine veteran free agents have joined the roster along with seven draftees and new coordinator Pep Hamilton, who took over after Bruce Arians accepted the head coaching job in Arizona. Hamilton called the plays for Andrew Luck at Stanford and now both are trying to teach the system to the rest of the Colts, including Luck.
So far, Wayne has seemed right at home.
''Reggie looks great,'' Luck said after Wednesday's practice. ''Reggie's going to look great in whatever offense you put him in. If it's the spread or whatever that crazy A-11 thing was in high school a couple of years ago, whether it's backyard football, any sport. He's the type of guy that stands out. He's just an athlete. He knows how to play. He'll be great. He always is.''
That's why the Colts have rarely balked when Wayne takes his offseason workouts on the road.
Traditionally, Wayne has spent the offseason like many former Hurricane players - sweating in the South Florida heat. Each year, Wayne returns in exceptional shape and has been incredibly productive for a receiver his age. He's had four 100-catch seasons in the last six years and has topped the 1,000-yard mark every year since 2004, missing by just 40 yards in 2011 when Manning did not play. Last summer, he even brought Luck to his home base to teach him what it takes to excel in the NFL.
Apparently, it worked as the Colts rebounded from a 2-14 season to go 11-5 and reach the playoffs with one of the biggest turnarounds in league history.
This time, Luck is the teacher and Wayne the pupil who is learning on the run. He's not even asking for Luck's help yet.
''I went to the University of Miami, man. We didn't cheat. We did everything the right way,'' Wayne said. ''So we just go take it one day at a time. I'm sure he's in there and when he gets a better idea of some things, he'll kind of help us out a little bit.''
For now, Wayne will try to figure it out himself.
He plans to be around for next week's mandatory mini-camp, and then he'll head back to Miami where he'll continue to work out until training camp begins in late July.
''I think we're rolling. I think we'll definitely take advantage of the rest of the OTAs (offseason team activities) and what we have left, but mandatory minicamp will be big for us,'' Wayne said, noting that he learned the difference between mandatory and voluntary at Miami, too. ''It'll be nice to be out there and really get going. It's been positive, productive so far. Hopefully we can finish this segment up well and go into the next one with some momentum.''