Analysis: Reggie Wayne deserves to play on

Don't blame the former Colts star wide receiver for wanting to finish on his own terms, even if it's with the rival Patriots.

The Monday morning wake-up call was unexpected. A radio station wanted to talk about Reggie Wayne.

We didn’t know then what we know now, that the former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver of 14 seasons had signed a one-year deal with the rival New England Patriots. But the reports were out there that “Reg” was getting a physical with the defending Super Bowl champions.

I stopped looking at Twitter a short time after the reports surfaced that Wayne had signed.

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Yeah, it’s tough to see a guy so beloved go to the other guys, especially to quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick and a franchise that has deprived the Colts of so much postseason success over the years.

But anybody blaming Reg hasn’t been paying attention.

He wanted to come back to the Colts for one more year. But he was hurt for the past two seasons and was a shell of his former self last postseason, suiting up with that balky brace on his left triceps, trying to be a warrior for his team.

The Colts decided it was time to move on. Reg didn’t agree. So he’s playing elsewhere. No way I can fault the man.

That it’s the Patriots shouldn’t come as a surprise. They were interested in him when he re-signed with the Colts in 2012. Before walking out the door to make a team visit, Reg called the Colts to give them one last chance to re-sign him. He wanted to stay in Indy. And the Colts brought him back.

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While some are understandably torn by this news, it’s not the first time the fan base has had to accept such a sobering reality. While driving to the Colts-Bears preseason game Saturday night, I spotted a fan with a split No. 18 jersey, half orange and half blue, which represents quarterback Peyton Manning’s ties to the Colts and then his new team, the Denver Broncos.

To this day, fans still tell me they haven’t gotten over Manning going elsewhere. But the Colts released him. It was owner Jim Irsay’s decision, as it was Irsay’s choice to not re-sign Reg. The Manning exodus turned out to be a win-win for both sides. The Colts have flourished in their rebuild with quarterback Andrew Luck and the Broncos have been a playoff team with Manning, who added another NFL MVP award to a trophy case that probably requires a storage facility.

NFL players hate to accept the end. Many are convinced they can still play, although their bodies tell them otherwise.

Reg had surgery on that triceps, he’s a year removed from knee surgery, and reports suggest he had a solid workout with the Patriots. He had said he wouldn’t just sign with any team, that it had to be the right fit. He wanted to contribute to a contender, a team with a solid quarterback, and he wanted to go out on his own terms.

The 36-year-old star has earned that, folks.

Reg has caught 1,070 passes for 14,345 yards and 82 TDs in the regular season and added 93 receptions for 1,254 yards and nine TDs in the playoffs.

Colts fans will hate to see it Reg in a Patriots uniform when he returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 18, but there’s absolutely no reason to be anything but respectful about one of the best players this franchise has had.

Some day, Wayne will be in the Colts’ Ring of Honor. Just like center Jeff Saturday, who played for the Green Bay Packers before retiring, this final chapter won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

I wish Reg well. We’ll see you in October, perhaps in the playoffs and then again down the road when your name is unveiled at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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


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