Reggie Wayne considers himself somewhat knowledgeable about the history of the National Football League. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Wayne’s memory reached all the way back to the 1980s when he was asked to describe the Indianapolis Colts’ new crop of wide receivers.
“They’re all Smurfs. I thought once they put on pads, they’d get bigger, but they’re still Smurfs. Not only are they Smurfs, but when they get the ball, they’re dangerous with it,” Wayne voiced Friday when discussing the relative lack of size among the Colts’ offseason additions of fifth-year veteran Donnie Avery, rookie T.Y. Hilton and rookie LaVon Brazill.
For those who don’t recall, the original Smurfs — the NFL version, that is — were a trio of smallish receivers with the Washington Redskins. The comparison is understandable. Washington’s Smurfs included Alvin Garrett (5-foot-7), Virgil Seay (5-8) and Charlie Brown (5-10). Avery, Hilton and Brazill line up at 5-11, 5-9 and 5-11 respectively.
Much like their Redskin counterparts, what this group of receivers lack in stature is balanced by their speed and quickness. All three have track backgrounds. For the first time in quite a while, Indianapolis may have three legitimate deep threats.
“It makes me want to pick up my speed a little bit. It makes it all fun. I try to see who’s the Mike Wallace [Pittsburgh wide receiver] of this offense. Guys are just out here acting like the Olympics, running as fast as they could.” Wayne marveled.
The addition of Avery, Hilton and Brazill has allowed the Colts’ Pro Bowl receiver to act as a mentor, advisor, teacher and on-field example of how to be a successful receiver in the NFL. It’s a role that Wayne learned first-hand from former Indianapolis receiver Marvin Harrison.
Now he’s just passing all that knowledge and information on to a younger generation of players. What’s made things even more interesting is that Wayne is learning the Colts’ new offensive system along with everybody else.
“I don’t know. It all seems like it’s the same. Guys will come ask questions. I remember guys were asking questions when I was here for only three years. It just comes with the territory,” he readily admits.
“As I’m telling them, I’m a rookie all over again too, dealing with offensive terminology and philosophy. Guys think because I’m the older guy, I can grasp it easier. It keeps me on my toes. We’ve got some young receivers who want to learn, guys taking great notes, heavy notes. I’m a big note-taker. When I see them taking notes, I know they want to get better. It’s going to be exciting. I like where we’re headed.”
While downplaying his years in the league (12) and age (33), Wayne acknowledges that he enjoys being the veteran leader of a young and talented group of receivers.
“It doesn’t matter to me. My intensity is going to stay the same. I’m not going to change anything. Even when Peyton [Manning] was here, I was still being vocal when I needed to be vocal. Guys came up to me and I helped. So I’m not going to do anything extra, extra, extra to help a guy. If I see a guy do something wrong, and it’s clearly wrong, I’m going to correct him,” he said. “I’m going to tell him what he should have done. But if it’s something minor, coaches get them on that. If they want to know something they come and ask. I’m there to help. So there’s no change for me. I’ve always been that guy, even if I wasn’t that guy. I consider myself as the leader, and I’m going to continue to lead.”
• Manning and Luck — The question has become inevitable. How does rookie quarterback Andrew Luck compare with his predecessor in Indianapolis.
“It’s hard for me to answer that question. Andrew’s going to be good, he’s going to be real good. He’s real smart, he knows what’s going on around him. He understands concepts, understands terminology, he understands it all. I can’t compare the two. That wouldn’t be fair,” Wayne voiced.
“Like I said earlier, you’ve just got to sit back and see what happens. I wasn’t here when Peyton came as a rookie, so I’m not sure what kind of ball he threw then. I’ll tell you Andrew throws a nice strong ball, nice strong spiral. I guess they both have their pros and cons if you had to match them up right now. Andrew is going to be Andrew, and he’ll tell you he’s not here to be Peyton. He’s here to be himself. If everybody expects him to be great someday, that means he’s on the right path. So all he’s got to do is continue doing what he’s doing and hope that guys like myself help him out.”
• Tom Moore offense vs. Bruce Arians offense — While Arians is a longtime Moore disciple, there are definite differences in how both offensive systems are constructed.
“There are some similarities. I’ll say it’s more different than it is the same. But that’s football, man. Once you ball down, and you really look at it, there’s something that we’re running now that I can always relate to the old offense,” Wayne said.
“It’s a copycat league, man. Somewhere in there you’re going to find something that you’ve been doing, just different terminology. I just try my best not to get them confused. I’ve got 11 years of something one way and a few months of something another way. So it’s going to take time but we’re getting there.”
• Luck watch — Luck had another steady day of practice Friday, completing 18 of 24 passes for three touchdowns. He was also sacked three times.
Luck hooked up with eight different receivers during the afternoon practice. He had TD passes to Wayne, Avery and Austin Collie.
Former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck — Andrew’s father — made his first appearance at training camp, making the quick trip from Morgantown, W.V., where he is the athletic director at West Virginia University.
The play of the day was turned in by backup quarterback Drew Stanton, who completed a long pass down the right sidelines to wide receiver Kris Adams for a touchdown. Adams made several spectacular catches during the workout.
• New players arrive — Linebackers Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia Thursday night, made it to the practice field midway through Friday’s afternoon workout.
Fokou and Lloyd came to the Colts in exchange for third-year cornerback Kevin Thomas and a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2013.
They were forced to sit and wait in the locker room Friday while Thomas completed his physical with the Eagles. Once that was done, Indianapolis officials hustled them out to the practice field.
• Injury list — Among those sitting out Friday were offensive guard Justin Anderson (foot), outside linebacker Tim Fugger (sports hernia), nose tackle Jose Chapman (knee) and wide receiver Griff Whalen (foot).
Whalen, who has yet to practice in training camp, was off crutches and was not wearing a walking boot Friday afternoon. Returning to practice were outside linebacker Jerry Brown and wide receiver Jarred Fayson.