ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) - Reggie Wayne is back to being his old self.
A little more than nine months after injuring his right knee, the perennial Pro Bowler was finally back on the practice field catching passes from quarterback Andrew Luck and working overtime receiving balls from the JUGS machine.
Yep, things are getting back to normal for the Colts.
“This is what I worked hard for. This is all the two- and three-a-days and rehabbing and stuff like that. This is what it’s about,” Wayne said after hauling in two balls Thursday. “Today felt pretty doggone good.”
Wayne had been the model of consistency until tearing his ACL in the fourth quarter of a victory over Denver and former teammate Peyton Manning last October.
He enters this season with 1,006 receptions, 13,566 yards, and 80 TDs. But the injury ended streaks of catching at least 70 passes and accumulating at least 960 yards, something he did every year from 2004 through 2012, as well as his streak of 189 consecutive games played.
Instead, Wayne was forced into the role of coach and motivator as he and a large group of injured offensive starters worked their way back to health.
Running back Vick Ballard, like Wayne, tore an ACL early last season, running back Ahmad Bradshaw had season-ending neck surgery in October, starting guard Donald Thomas underwent surgery to repair a torn biceps and a torn quad, and tight end Dwayne Allen had season-ending hip surgery in September.
Allen was the only one of the five on the field for offseason workouts.
So when the Colts opened practice Thursday all eyes were focused on the 35-year-old Wayne who kept promising he would be ready for the start of camp. Fans greeted his return with chants of “Reg-gie, Reg-gie” and cheered loudly any time he got near the temporary bleachers at Anderson University.
Wayne had only one complaint: He grudgingly agreed to take some of the practice off.
“That’s the thing, we want to stay the course, even if I don’t agree to it,” Wayne said. “I give Coach (Chuck) Pagano the first round, he won this first round. I wanted to come in and kind of slowly get my way into it.
“I did more than half of practice. I could have, I wanted to do the whole thing, but he pulled me out and said it was enough.”
A year ago, the Colts left camp expecting to build on the success of Luck’s rookie season. But the injury rash struck hard and fast.
Allen went down with a hip injury in Week 1, and Ballard injured his knee in practice a few days later. Thomas was carted off the field in Week 2, and Bradshaw hurt his neck in Week 3, decimating a ground game the Colts hoped would take some of the pressure off of Luck’s right arm.