Pagano not saying if Wayne will play Saturday

Colts head coach has insisted on playing it safe with his 35-year-old star wide receiver, who is coming off knee surgery.

Chuck Pagano still isn’t tipping his hand on when wide receiver Reggie Wayne will play, if at all, in a preseason game.

The Indianapolis Colts’ head coach made his intentions known at the outset of preseason that the workout emphasis would be on quality and not necessarily quantity. Wayne, who is coming off reconstructive knee surgery, has yet to play a snap in two exhibitions. Perhaps Saturday will provide the chance for the 14th-year pro to show he’s recovered and ready.

But Pagano isn’t saying if Wayne will play when the New Orleans Saints visit Lucas Oil Stadium in the Colts’ third preseason game, when starters typically play two quarters.

“There’s a possibility,” Pagano said on a Sunday conference call. “We’re managing that thing and keeping a close eye on him. From a physical standpoint, (we) make sure there’s not too much wear and tear on that knee early on and coming back and all those things.

“We’re going to monitor him this week and see how he goes. If things go according to plan, there’s a possibility there, but again, we’ll make sure he’s ready for action.”

Wayne has made it clear, ever so respectfully during training camp interviews, that he’s ready. But he accepts he’ll play when Pagano says it’s time.

NFL players typically need a full year to recover from ACL surgery, which Wayne underwent on his right knee after suffering the season-ending injury in 2013’s seventh game in October. The Colts knocked off Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium, but Wayne was lost midway through the fourth quarter when he reached back to try to catch a low pass. The non-contact injury snapped a streak of 189 consecutive games played, third-longest in NFL history for a wide receiver.

It’s the first serious injury of Wayne’s pro career, although he underwent the same surgery on his other knee while in college in 1998. He actually played two years on that bad knee then — the ACL tear was suffered while in high school but not diagnosed until later.

Pagano said from day one he never had a doubt the 35-year-old wide receiver would work tirelessly to return. But in a preseason when the Colts have already lost two key players to season-ending injuries in offensive left guard Donald Thomas (quad) and running back Vick Ballard (Achilles), Pagano is even more adamant about playing it safe.

That also means NFL reigning sack champion Robert Mathis has been rested more than in the past. Mathis didn’t play in Saturday’s 27-26 home loss to the New York Giants. The Colts will be without Mathis for the first four games of the season as he sits out a league suspension for using a fertility drug which is listed as a banned substance.

“It’s like Reggie and anybody else,” Pagano said. “We understand that we’re going to be without Rob, and we’ve got to make sure that form a preparation standpoint, staying in it mentally throughout the course of practice, those types of things, you get him through.

“There’s a fine line because we know we’re not going to have him for four weeks. He’s not going to be available. You’ve got to get the other guys ready to go, get them playing time and get them the snaps that they need. It’s tough. You’ve just got to manage it the best that you can. I’m not going to say we’ve totally ruled out the idea of him playing in the preseason. We’ll just take it day-by-day. I know we’ve got two opportunities left and we’ll just see where we’re at. If there’s an opportunity and it makes sense for us to get him out there, then we will.”

In other words, stay tuned.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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