On Friday March 6th another legendary Colts player saw his time in Indianapolis come to an end. Colts officials announced they would not seek to re-sign Reggie Wayne, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.
As with most fans, it’s always been hard for me to watch certain players leave, especially when they have done so much for the team and the community. I would like to have seen Wayne come back to the Colts, if even for just one more season. But I also realize that this move, or lack there of, is in their mutual best interest.
Wayne was absolutely integral in helping to develop and mentor many of the young players the Colts now feature as weapons in their offense. And while he leaves a big empty spot in the receiver corps, the Colts now need other players to step up and be a positive presence on the sideline and in the locker room, as well as in the community.
While casually discussing NFL free agency with my friend (and fellow Colts fan) Joe this past Friday, he asked if I thought that Wayne could still come back with some other team and be an effective receiving option. I told him that I didn’t really know. If he were to fully heal from his triceps injury, he very well could return and be effective. However, I’m not one of those fans who will beg for a player to return based solely on personal nostalgia, especially if they don’t have anything to prove.
At 36 years old, Wayne can walk away from the game holding his head up high, as he ranks second in the franchise only to future Hall of Famer, Marvin Harrison, with 1,070 receptions , 14,345 receiving yards, 82 receiving touchdowns, 43 games with 100-yards receiving and a streak of 134 consecutive games with at least one reception. He has played in 211 regular season games and was a part of 143 team wins, both of which are Colts franchise records. Wayne has been selected to six Pro-Bowls, named an All-Pro three times, helped the Colts win an AFC title twice, and earned a championship ring in Super-Bowl 41. This is a collection of achievements that should allow him to retire with no regrets.
Yes, I said retire. This may not be a popular suggestion to some, but I believe now would be the right time for Wayne to hang up his cleats. He has the chance to walk or maybe even strut away from the game, rather than suffer serious injuries and potentially be carried away or even wheeled away instead.
Wayne has always said he’s a Colt for life, and during an interview with RTV 6’s Mike Chappel, Wayne talked about the possibility of starting over with another team if the Colts didn’t re-sign him. He even touched on Peyton Manning’s decision to continue on after he made a similar proclamation about “retiring as a Colt”.
“I know what I’m not going to do is go somewhere else and play for one year, two years. Absolutely not. Nobody else. I don’t have time to be dipping and dabbing, one year here, maybe one year somewhere else.”
“I think Peyton was just blowing smoke and I’m telling you the truth. No place else. I don’t have time to be a rookie again.”
Recently there have been rumors that Wayne may be looking for one more year with a “contender”, which of course gets analysts, coaches, players, fans, etc… discussing if he has anything to offer another team or if he even has enough “gas left in the tank” to compete at a high level. Pittsburgh wideout, Antonio Brown told Lindsay Rhodes at NFL.com, “I think he’s got a lot more left in the tank…. I think a great landing spot for this guy would be with Peyton Manning”. As much of a compliment as it is to have such talented young player give him such a vote of confidence, this is a decision Wayne is going to have to make based on more than ego.
At this stage of his life and career, his concerns aren’t limited to who would sign him, what role he’ll actually play in another team’s offense, or if he can get one more ring. He has his wife and their three young sons to consider, as well as preserving his quality of life after football.
As much as I will miss Wayne’s ostentatious arrivals at training camp, or his dependability on third down, or his ability to make a catch, take the hit, then bounce back up and be ready for the next play with a big smile on his face, I believe he should be a man of his word, bow out gracefully, spend quality time with his family, and begin to enjoy his life after having had such an incredible NFL career.