Reggie Wayne is getting used to his expanded position as a veteran leader in the Indianapolis Colts locker room.
Wayne, now in his 12th season with the team, has gladly assumed the roles of mentor, advisor, teacher and on-field example of how to be a successful receiver in the NFL. It’s a role that Wayne learned firsthand from former Indianapolis receiver Marvin Harrison.
He’s just passing all that knowledge and information on to a younger generation of players, including rookie quarterback Andrew Luck as well as first-year receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill. But what’s made things even more interesting this season 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,” he said during training camp. “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.
“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 and his 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 [former Colts quarterback] 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.”
Wayne's desire to be a leader hasn’t surprised anybody. Neither has his desire to learn a new way of doing things under the tutelage of interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and wide receivers coach Charlie Williams.
“You can’t put a value on it. [Wayne’s leadership] has been fantastic. From day one, through the [organized team activities] in the summer, what he does in his role with his young guys and the quarterback, he is the heart and soul leader of the offense,” Arians voiced recently.
“Andrew will take that torch one day. But for right now, it’s definitely Reggie. He’s done a heck of a job coming to me with things, going to the coaches with things. It’s what a leader does. Different things within the locker room, whatever. There’s no way to put a value on that and how important that is.”
One example of how he bought in to what coach Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff is trying to accomplish was his willingness to learn different ways to run pass patterns. He was also moved from the left side of the formation, where Wayne had been most of the time over his previous 11 seasons, to line up in the slot and on the right side.
“It was hard for him to get on the other side. His feet wouldn’t work. He’d been on the left side forever. And now he’s over here running off his other foot. That’s not easy,” the longtime NFL assistant said.
“He worked his tail off. To play in the slot and to do all the things, like asking him to read coverage and do those things. But his production right now speaks for his work ethic. Because it wouldn't have happened without putting all that work in. When you produce like he’s producing, you’re paying a heck of a good price mentally and physically.”
While Arians is a longtime disciple of former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore, there are definite differences in how both offensive systems are constructed.
“It’s a copycat league, man,” Wayne said. “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.”
One question has become inevitable. How does 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 said.
“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.”
The fact that Wayne remained in Indianapolis after team officials decided to dismantle an older, and successful, roster in a large-scale makeover surprised many outside observers. And make no mistake about it. He had better offers from other teams, opportunities to end his career with franchises better suited to make a Super Bowl run this year and in the immediate future.
But Wayne just couldn’t see himself playing anywhere else. And he had strong ties to Pagano from their time together at the University of Miami. He signed a three-year, $17.5 million deal with the Colts last March after his previous contract had expired. Chances are he’ll end his NFL career in Indianapolis.
“Yeah, I thought I was going somewhere else the way things were going. Older guys were getting released. But I talked to Coach Pagano and it made it easier for me to stay. And staying in Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, it was pretty much an easy pick for me,” he said.
Which brings us to tonight’s nationally televised AFC South battle with Jacksonville (1-7, 1-1 AFC South). A quick turnaround game for the Colts (5-3, 1-1 AFC South), especially those young receivers who have never been through this sort of thing before at the NFL level. Wayne’s locker room and practice field leadership is striking a chord there too.
“I think you have to approach all of [the games] the right way, no matter what the opposing team’s record is,” he said. “It’s not like we are a veteran team ourselves. We’re young. We don’t have the position to where we can come out lax, not focused. We have to come out focused, no matter what the situation is.
“It’s going to be challenging. With this young team, this is now the first non-1 p.m. game that we’ve had. We got to make it a business trip like all the rest of them and not a vacation.”
Same thing goes for getting too amped up over Indianapolis’ current three-game winning streak.
“I don’t tell them anything,” Wayne said. “They’re professionals. They know what’s up. Coach Arians did a great job in the team meeting [Monday], telling them this isn’t the time to be patting themselves on the back. It’s the third quarter.
“We need to do in third quarter what we did in the second quarter. We need to stay focused, go out there, make plays, win games and just play Colts football.”
Reggie Wayne is getting used to his expanded position as a veteran leader in the Indianapolis Colts locker room.
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A year ago, quarterback Andrew Luck was unable to attend the Indianapolis Colts’ organized team activity practices due to school commitments at Stanford.
Luck, though, went on to have a stellar year for the Colts despite the lack of summer work with the team. Still, in a sense, he is a rookie during this year’s OTA workouts.
“These are my first OTAs. I missed these last year, so I think it’s great. It’s great to get on the field with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff. Obviously, some of us ran some of this stuff [offense] at Stanford [under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton]. But to get out there with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff is good,” Luck said Wednesday as the team wrapped up its first week of on-field voluntary practice sessions.
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A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
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Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
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Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin agreed to terms with the Colts on Tuesday evening and officially signed with the team Wednesday. Franklin (6-1, 315) is a 10-year NFL veteran with stops in Baltimore (2003-06), San Francisco (2007-10), New Orleans (2011) and San Diego (2012).
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The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
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New York Jets safety LaRon Landry and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois both signed contracts with the Colts. Landry, a strong safety who appears to be a bigger version of former Indianapolis Pro Bowler Bob Sanders, and the versatile Jean-Francois are expected to make immediate impacts on the Colts’ defensive unit.
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That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
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Jeff Saturday retires as a Colt
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The 14-year veteran center in the NFL put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — when Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
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McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
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Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
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The team will have the 24th overall pick in the first round, which is a double-edged sword. Indianapolis picks lower in the round due to a successful season. But the pool of available can’t-miss talent isn’t quite as plentiful as drafting earlier in the round.
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