The Herald Bulletin

June 5, 2013

Old Wayne learning new tricks with Colts

Veteran Wayne fitting in with young teammates, fresh scheme

By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

INDIANAPOLIS — Shopping for longtime teammate Robert Mathis' wedding gift proved rather easy for Reggie Wayne.

"A 'Game Over' t-shirt," Wayne quipped Wednesday when asked what he purchased. "You know, I signed up on his registry, and I got him a ton of things. Well-deserved. I'm happy for him. Whenever you see one of your brethren continue to grow in life, you are happy for him."

Moments like Mathis' nuptials last Saturday, however, are coming fewer and farther between for the 34-year-old Wayne.

Normally found working out at his south Florida home this time of year, the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver is back in the Circle City this week going through organized team activities alongside his teammates.

And, just as was the case a year ago, part of the challenge is learning everyone's name. Wayne, 32-year-old Mathis, 28-year-old Antoine Bethea and 40-year-old Adam Vinatieri are the only remaining faces from the Colts' Super Bowl XLI championship team of seven seasons ago.

A new generation, led by fresh-faced quarterback Andrew Luck, crashed into Indy last season and produced a surprising 11-5 record and a wild-card playoff berth.

But Wayne proved there's still a place for the older guys at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Spurning offers to leave via free agency, he caught 106 passes for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns last year. Those numbers are eerily similar to the totals he produced in 2010 (111, 1,355, 6) — his final season playing alongside four-time MVP Peyton Manning.

Unsurprisingly, Wayne has high praise for Luck as the duo prepares for their second year together.

"He's my quarterback so I'm going to be biased," Wayne said. "It's like he's a seven-, eight-, nine-year vet. He's handled everything extraordinarily well. He's doing a great job. He's talking in meetings, and he has a little hand up on everybody with this offense, and that's even better. But he's doing what a quarterback should. He's being a leader and showing everybody what to do."

Wayne might need to lean on that knowledge a bit in the future.

Luck played for two seasons at Stanford under new Indianapolis offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, and he said earlier this spring that about 75 percent of the system being installed is familiar from his college days.

Wayne still is catching up with some of the finer points of the scheme. He said some things are similar to last year's offense under Bruce Arians, who left to become the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Others are unlike anything he's been asked to do in his previous 12 seasons in the NFL.

Wayne is here for the final week of OTAs, in part, so he can hear Luck call plays in the huddle, hear Hamilton describe them in meetings and get a little better feel for the terminology.

But Luck believes the six-time Pro Bowl selection ultimately will make a smooth transition.

"Reggie's going to look great in whatever offense you put him in," Luck said. "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."

Wayne needs 1,517 yards to catch former teammate Marvin Harrison's franchise record (14,580) and will enter this season with a 112-game consecutive reception streak. Since 2004, he leads the NFL with 824 catches and 11,164 yards.

But Wayne didn't return to Indianapolis after a disastrous 2-14 season in 2011 for individual glory.

At the request of head coach Chuck Pagano, a friend dating back to their days at the University of Miami, he came back to help bridge the gap between the Manning era and what the Colts hope will be new glory days with Luck.

Last year's playoff appearance was a fine start.

"Last year opened my eyes a little bit," Wayne said. "A lot of people think since you've got a young team, you are not going to do so well. But we were able to show a couple people what a young team can do. And I feel like we can do the same thing this year. If I'm not mistaken, we got like 32, 36 new faces again. So we just got to follow that same diagram as last year. And we got to top that one."