Reggie Wayne has soared to uncommon heights over his 13 many-splendored seasons as an Indianapolis Colts wide receiver. He is eighth in NFL history with 1,006 receptions and 11th with 13,566 receiving yards. He is poised on the brink of truly historic achievement. He is poised on wounded knee. Wayne faces the heftiest challenge of his spectacular career. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the tough, fibrous tissue that acts like a rubber band connecting the bottom end of the femur, or thighbone, to the top end of the tibia, or shinbone, in his right knee during the fourth quarter of the Colts’ Oct. 20 victory over the Denver Broncos. He underwent reconstructive surgery five days later. He is out for the season. Wayne has declined numerous interview requests, but there is no underestimating the injury’s devastating impact. “It gets you from every angle, mentally, physically, whatever,” he once told The Indianapolis Star of his first ACL tear, in his left knee as a University of Miami sophomore in 1998. “In the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘Is my career over? Can I bounce back from this?’ It comes down on you so much that you take it out on the people you love. I had to apologize to my mom after a couple of months. “It’s bad. I wouldn’t put it on my worst enemy.” Precedent suggests and studies indicate that Wayne, headed into the final year of his contract, will make it back but never regain the form that has so long distinguished him. Age is his enemy. Wayne will be 35 on Nov. 17. Only a dozen NFL receivers have managed 1,000-yard seasons after their 35th birthdays. Only three achieved that milestone at 36 or older. Only one has done it after tearing his ACL at so advanced an age: Jerry Rice. The best receiver in NFL history was 35 when he tore his ACL in 1997. He came back to play seven more seasons and surpass 1,000 yards three more times. “Reggie’s going to be the second guy. That’s a no-brainer,” said Edgerrin James, himself an ACL survivor, the Colts’ career rushing leader and a Wayne comrade since their days as teammates at the University of Miami in the late 1990s. Said Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, Wayne’s teammate of 11 years: “Bet the house on him.” There are no sure things. Anthony Gonzalez tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the Colts’ 2009 season opener, an injury much less serious than an ACL tear. Gonzalez was told he would be back in four weeks. He played only a handful of snaps in one game before missing the rest of the season. The injury was one of many that scuttled a career that got off to a brightly promising start in 2007. Through them all, Gonzalez studied his senior teammate. He marveled at how Wayne so diligently maintained his body, how quickly he came back from injury. “Injuries that took guys two months to get over took Reggie two days,” Gonzalez said. “If I’ve met anybody in my life who can do it, he can.” And there is this: “The second time wasn’t nearly as hard because I knew I could rehab and I knew I could get back,” said Marlin Jackson, a former Colts cornerback who tore his right ACL in 2008 and his left ACL in 2009, both in practice, both, as was the case with Wayne this season, in noncontact situations. “Reggie knows what to do. From knowing him and playing with him for five years, the thing about Reggie is he’s never been a prima donna. He’s not your stereotypical wide receiver. He works. He always had the work ethic of a defensive back. “Reggie will come back and be the same guy.” Wayne is quietly applying full vigor to the numbing rehabilitation protocol expected to return him to the playing field in time for next season. Colts trainer Dave Hammer told coach Chuck Pagano that Wayne spent 8½ hours in the training room Tuesday.
Colts WR Reggie Wayne be the same player when he returns from knee injury?
Indianapolis Star | Nov 9