Colts' Wayne drawing more attention from opponents
Reggie Wayne spent eight NFL seasons watching Marvin Harrison attract attention.
Peyton Manning repeatedly looked his way, defenses rolled double coverage his way and the records kept falling his way.
Apparently, Wayne did more than just observe. He was taking notes, and now, in his first season as the Colts' undisputed No. 1 receiver, Wayne is putting those lessons to work.
``Sometimes I can go to Peyton on the sideline and say, 'They're doubling me on certain plays,' and Peyton will send me on an out route just for fun, to run two guys off,'' Wayne said Thursday. ``That's how it goes. I've seen them double Marvin and leave me singled, and now it's my turn.''
With four games left, Wayne's 83 receptions are tied for second in the NFL, putting him on pace for a second 100-reception season if the unbeaten Colts let him play after locking up their playoff seed. He's topped 1,000 yards for the sixth straight season and is likely headed to his fourth straight Pro Bowl.
Indy (12-0) has already clinched the division title and a win Sunday against Denver would give the Colts an NFL record 22nd consecutive victory and the top seed in the AFC.
Occasionally, there are games like last weekend, when Wayne seems more blue-collar worker than top target. Against Tennessee, he had four receptions for 48 yards, a day he could have used the construction helmet that hangs in his locker.
``It's part of the game, there's nothing you can do and as long as we win games that's OK,'' Wayne said. ``There are going to be some games where I disappoint some fantasy coaches, but that's how it is.''
When that happens, Wayne's responsibility is to use his talents to help teammates, just like Harrison did for him.
- Tight end Dallas Clark has 77 catches and 859 yards and could break his own single-season franchise records for a tight end this weekend.
- Second-year receiver Pierre Garcon, a virtual unknown before this season, is averaging 16.5 yards on 43 catches.
- Rookie receiver Austin Collie has 47 receptions for 501 yards and five TDs.
Wayne has had a hand in all of it.
``I think this is a different type of year for him,'' Manning said recently. ``His role has changed. He's taken some of these guys under his wing a little bit and helped those guys. (Assistant head coach) Clyde (Christensen) has challenged Reggie to take his game to the next level. I think Reggie has answered that challenge.''
But now Wayne is taking another page out of Harrison's playbook.
Five weeks ago, Wayne, almost unnoticed, passed Hall of Famer Raymond Berry for second on the Colts career reception list. Wayne needs just 112 yards to pass Berry for second on the franchise's career yardage list, leaving only Harrison ahead of him in both cases.
So the New Orleans native plans to cherish the moment quietly.
``It comes with the territory. When you put in all that effort, those accolades will come, I learned that from Marv,'' Wayne said. ``I think he (Berry) paved the way for us. He did it, he did it the right way and he's a great person.''
Wayne's teammates use the exact same words to describe him.
``He (Wayne) is a great person,'' Garcon said.
And he's figured out what it takes to become an even better player.
Wayne was a first-round pick in the 2001 draft but had an injury-plagued rookie season. He has steadily improved. He used his strong hands, which Manning called the strongest in the 2001 draft class, to earn the confidence of his quarterback and used Harrison's example as his guide book.
Wayne was part of Indy's 1,000-yard, 10-TD catch trio in 2004. Two years ago, when Harrison missed most of the year with a knee injury, Wayne had a career-high 104 receptions and an NFL best 1,510 yards. Last year, his numbers topped Harrison's.
So with Harrison gone, Wayne has figured out how to thrive with the spotlight on him.
``You've got to be prepared for whenever your name is called,'' he said. ``One game it's Dallas having a big day, then it's Collie. Whenever you have that many bullets in the chamber, that's going to happen. You have to stay focused and know that sometime your name will be called and if you're moping around you're not going to be ready for the opportunity.''