Even Reggie Wayne was scared for a moment.
Late in the third quarter of his much-anticipated return from knee surgery, the 35-year-old Indianapolis Colts wide receiver went down awkwardly after a catch at Denver last Sunday night. He tried to plant his left leg on the wide-receiver screen, but slipped, and his surgically repaired right knee and leg stayed the other way.
“I’d rather just see him get the crap knocked out of him over the middle than do the splits,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Saturday. “Thank God he does yoga.”
Wayne stayed down for a moment. Tight end Coby Fleener was there to help him up. Wayne slowly stood and limped to the sideline.
But that scare, he admitted after catching nine passes for 98 yards in the 31-24 loss, reinforced the right knee is sound.
“As I’m laying there, I’m just trying to compare feelings,” Wayne said Saturday, two days before the Colts will host Philadelphia on Monday Night Football. “But at the same time, after the game was over, I tell myself that’s probably the healthiest joint on my body; still got the price tag, you know? So you’re fine, it’s all the other stuff you’ve got to worry about at this point in time. It’s not something that I stress. It’s already written. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Hopefully it doesn’t.”
The 14th-year pro soon realized his body needs more time to recover from games. He admitted to receivers coach Charlie Williams Saturday morning that if the Colts would have had to play a Thursday night game in Week 2, “I would have been in trouble.”
He rationalized the soreness is to be expected, especially after playing for the first time in 11 months since tearing the right anterior cruciate ligament while reaching back for a pass on Oct. 20, 2013, at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It’s going to hurt,” Wayne said. “But it’s a good hurt. I’d rather that hurt than plenty others. It’s good to be out there and if I’ve got to be like this the whole year, I’m willing to take the risk.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck, from his first pass to his last, made it obvious No. 87 was going to get a workout. Wayne was targeted 13 times, catching that first pass on the opening series but failing to come up with the last one on fourth-and-6 with the Colts trying to tie the game in the final minutes.
“I didn’t take in effect that it would take a week to get the soreness out, but when you sit back and think about it, that’s about right,” Wayne said. “That’s about what it is. My body’s responding fine, especially for a 35-year-old. Not very many 35-year-olds can get hit by a Mack truck and keep it moving. So far so good and hopefully we just continue to keep that ball bouncing.”
When told Pagano’s assessment of preferring Wayne “get the rap knocked out” of him, the receiver laughed.
“One thing you realize, that friendship stuff is overrated,” he said. “But I think I would rather have none, but to a sense, he’s probably got some truth to that. I’ve been hit many times before and bounced up, but when you go down awkward, it’s a different get up. It’s kind of a get up, make sure your leg and everything is still attached to your body, make sure everything’s functional and get up.
“One thing I realized after I watched the film is I probably should have just laid there because everybody was waiting on me and the play clock is just ticking and ticking and ticking. We’re away and you hear the whole stadium get quiet, you don’t know if that’s respect or if all my fantasy coaches are just in trouble. It’s something that all eyes are on me and that’s something that I don’t want all eyes to be on me about. So I just wanted to make sure I get up and finished it out.”
The Colts already have a dozen players on injured reserve, soon to be 13 with suspended outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who recently tore his Achilles tendon during a workout in Atlanta. So Pagano has already seen enough injury scares at this early juncture.
“I mean, you hold your breath on every one of these guys,” the coach said. “That’s just football and that’s what it is. The way it happened, the way it looked, all those type of things and who it was, just coming off a knee. Having survived that, I’m pretty sure he can survive just about anything now.”
The splits behind him, Wayne can now show he’s back on a national primetime stage. The six-time Pro Bowl star conceded he still gets jacked up for playing on Monday night.
“Whenever you’re primetime, you know America’s watching,” he said. “You know everything’s at stake. It’s also an opportunity for us to right the wrong. We had an opportunity to go out last week on national TV and show America what we were capable of doing and we kind of laid an egg a little bit.
“Thankfully we’ve got another opportunity the following week to do that. A pretty good week of preparation, everybody’s been excited. Everybody’s eager to go out there and turn it around. Hopefully we can go out there and change it up, and show America what we really can do.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.