The 14th-year wide receiver reiterated his loyalty two days before Sunday’s 26-10 AFC Wild Card playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
That Wayne, one of the NFL’s best postseason performers, had only one 12-yard reception in that game suggests his successful career could come to an end when this season concludes and his contract expires.
Wayne, 36, has hinted at retirement, that it could soon be time to make “family decisions” to spend more time with his three children. But the six-time Pro Bowl, three-time All-Pro star has also suggested he thinks he can still play.
“I’ve been here so long I feel like that foundation is built,” Wayne said. “I just don’t see myself anywhere else. I really feel like I bleed blue. Since day one, since 2001, the first day I hit the Indiana State line, everybody here has embraced me. They’ve supported me whether it was good or bad and I appreciate that so I feel like my way of giving back is just being loyal.
“It’s a first-class organization. Going into somewhere else, the grass may be greener but you never know what really goes on. But I do understand and do know what goes on here and that’s something that you won’t find anywhere else. This is a great organization and a great place to be.”
The Colts (12-5) are touchdown underdogs for Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos (12-4) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos prevailed 31-24 over the Colts in the season opener at Denver.
Should Peyton Manning end Wayne’s season this weekend, the Colts will evidently have a decision to make about No. 87. Colts owner & CEO Jim Irsay said Tuesday that all of the focus is on this game and he has not discussed the future of the roster yet with general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano.
“For the future, we haven’t decided yet,” Irsay said.
Wayne was slowed by knee, elbow and torn triceps injuries this season. He caught 64 passes for 779 yards and two TDs. His 2013 season, cut short to seven games by a knee injury, amounted to 38 receptions for 503 yards and two TDs.
Combine those two seasons and that’s still shy of his career best seasons, when he caught 111 passes in 2010, had 1,510 receiving yards in 2007 and 12 touchdowns in 2004. He hit triple digits in receptions four times in his career and surpassed 1,000 yards receiving eight times, including seven consecutive seasons from 2004 to 2010.
The fan favorite will be inducted into the Colts’ Ring of Honor some day, and should receive consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns rank him among the greatest Colts pass catchers in history.
While he’s behind current Hall of Fame candidate Mavin Harrison in many major franchise records, Wayne outperformed his former teammate in the playoffs. His 94 career postseason receptions rank second in league history to Jerry Rice, his 1,266 receiving yards fourth. And he can pass Cliff Branch (1,289) and Michael Irvin (1,315) with a solid game Sunday. His nine playoff TDs are tied for seventh in league history. One more would move him into a tie for third with four players.
Third-year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton insists Wayne must return.
“To me, asking me personally, he doesn’t have a choice,” Hilton said last Friday. “I’m not going to let him leave me right now. I’ll have a talk with him whenever that time comes. I told him talk to your family, talk to your kids, but when you’re finished with that, make sure you come talk to me. Our relationship has really grown, so I’ll probably have a say-so with that.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.