Nearly lost amid the craziness of yesterday’s 30-27 win for the Colts over the Packers was that WR Reggie Wayne had the best day of his career. Yes, his career. With 13 catches, 212 yards and a TD, Wayne was unreal. Oh, and he was fighting through leg cramps to make it happen, according to Yahoo! Sports.
It’s times like these when I like to bring up my original thoughts on the situation when Wayne signed a three-year, $17.5 million deal to return as a 33-year old. I remember thinking something like, “Huh?” I didn’t get it. I didn’t see the upside for signing a veteran coming off his worst season since 2003 with just 75 catches for 960 yards and four TDs.
I wondered, how much does Wayne have left? And, with the youth movement going so strong, why move in the opposite direction? The answer came about as loud as the thunderous applause from last night. Wayne’s got game. Man, I was wrong. In fact, given his contract — and the fact that he’s ranked 23rd (!!!) among current receivers contracts for average per year — he’s a bargain.
Think about what the Colts are getting now for such a cheap price: First, a go-to receiver, the kind of guy who can not only go over 200 yards, but also serve as the key playmaker with the game on the line. When the Colts had to have it. QB Andrew Luck went to him over and over, even amid double teams. As I mentioned, Wayne had severe leg cramps during that fourth quarter, and I asked him how he dealt with it, too.
“You just say, ‘Not now,’ ” Wayne told me. “It’s a pain thing, you can’t let it get to you. Let it get to your head, it can filter down (to your legs).”
OK, then. The Colts also have a player who can ward off cramps. Impressive. Anyway, Wayne’s always been productive. But right now, he’s on pace to go over 2,000 yards this season, which would shatter his career high of 1,510. Last year, clearly playing with Curtis Painter didn’t help. But people like me (sorry!) got tricked into thinking he was old.
He wasn’t old. Elder, maybe. But not too old. That was the QB at fault. Now, with Luck, Wayne is actually even better. Listen to Luck explain the influence Wayne has.
“I think he just does a great job of getting open at the right times and making the big catch, the big play when the team needs it the most,” Luck said today. “Obviously, I think I have a lot of trust in him. He’s a great player. It was as impressive as it was live. From watching the film, you realize those were a lot of big situations that he comes up in. It’s not that hard to throw the ball in the vicinity of a receiver and he goes out and makes an amazing catch. He made everybody look good.”
OLB Dwight Freeney has seen the best this organization has to offer. And he’s seen Wayne for years. His thoughts? Was it the best performance he’s witnessed?
“It’s up there, if not one of the best I’ve seen,” Freeney said. “Reggie has been here forever. Unfortunately overshadowed at times. He’s a baller. He steps up all the great times you need him. Obviously he did it again. He’s always been there for us.”
Of course, Wayne’s influence goes far beyond the field. For this extremely young team, he’s one of the few proven guys. They see him putting in the work, it has to wear off. On the field, he’s big. Off the field, maybe bigger. That’s a complete contribution for a low price.
“I mean, you want to have a vet in every room that is a pro that knows how to prepare on and off the field, and shows up on Sunday,” interim coach Bruce Arians said. “I think we’re fortunate that we have one of those guys in every room, especially in that room where we’re so young. The only room that’s really light is the tight ends but Alfredo (Roberts) is a vet. He played for a long time and knows how to prepare and the guys trust him, so I think that’s very important too. Having Reggie, especially with Andrew (Luck), the trust factor is huge.”
Like I said — bargain.