INDIANAPOLIS - The more you allow Reggie Wayne’s words to sink in – really sink in – and the more you come to realize he’s not just on the downside of a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
He might actually see the finish line in the not-too-distant future. Like when the Indianapolis Colts’ season, his 14th in the NFL, comes to a close.
The decision whether Wayne retires rather than re-sign with the Colts in the offseason if they show an interest – he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year – won’t be made until Wayne has a chance to sit back in February and March and decompress.
But trust me, it’s a distinct possibility. Just listen to the man. You hear the voice of a 36-year-old who already has had those internal discussions.
So, Reggie, is there a chance you don’t return for your 15th season?
“It’s real, man,” he said. “It’s tough, it really is. You have to decide if you want to make that sacrifice again. A lot goes into it.”
The biggest factor in Wayne’s decision will be his family. He and his wife have three boys: 11-year-old RoSean; Reggie Jr., 5; and Rayden, 3.
“Thirty-six, man. Kids growing up. It’s time for family decisions,” Wayne said. “They’re 11, 5 and 3. They’re doing stuff now. I’ve got an 11-year-old that’s all over the place, doing things, playing football.
“It sucks when you hear he’s playing defensive end and he got a sack/fumble to win a game and you ain’t there.”
Wayne to his wife: “Did you record it?”
Wife to frustrated hubby: “No, I couldn’t get it, didn’t have a good angle.”
“I missed it,” Wayne said. “I hate missing that. My 5-year-old, he’s got a little flag football thing going at school. And I’m here in Indy, freezing. It’s tough.
“You’ve got to start making decisions.”
It’s clear it won’t be easy for Wayne to walk away, if that’s his decision. While he’s the consummate team player, he’s also driven by individual achievements.
When the Colts face the Browns Sunday in Cleveland, Wayne will appear in his 208th regular-season game. That ties Peyton Manning for the most in a Colts’ uniform. He’s been a part of 140 regular-season victories, one shy of matching Manning’s club record.
“I just come to work every day, put my hard hat on and go to work,” Wayne said. “Being available is something I’ve always taken pride in.”
Also, Wayne ranks No. 2 in club history with 1,060 receptions, 14,202 yards and 82 touchdowns. He’s closing in on Marvin Harrison’s club marks (1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards), and already would have eclipsed them if he hadn’t missed the final nine games a year ago with a knee injury.
When asked about being motivated by the stats and footprints he will leave on the NFL/Colts landscape, Wayne shared a discussion he had with former long-time teammate and close friend Edgerrin James. James retired in 2009 after piling up 12,246 in 11 seasons. That’s No. 11 in NFL history, but just 34 yards shy of displacing Marshall Faulk at No. 10.
James told Wayne he wished he had stuck around just a little longer.
“He told me, ‘I know my exact numbers. I was right there. I wish I could get it (No. 10),’” Wayne said. “He told me, ‘You’ve got to keep playing because once you get that exact number, it’s going to be your exact number forever.
“You can’t go back and get it. We laugh about it.”
But again, the decision that looms is no laughing matter.
Continue a career that already represents one of the finest in club history? Or walk away, satisfied with your handiwork and eager to assume to role of Mr. Mom?
One thing Wayne is certain of is he’ll never play for another team. If he has the itch to return and the Colts determine to go in another direction at the position, he won’t test veteran free agency as he did after the 2011 season.
“I know what I’m not going to do is go somewhere else and play for one year, two years,” he said. “Absolutely not. Nobody else. I don’t have time to be dipping and dabbing, one year here, maybe one year somewhere else.”
He was reminded Manning vowed he would retire a Colt when he signed a five-year, $90 million contract in 2011.
“I think Peyton was just blowing smoke and I’m telling you the truth,” Wayne said. “No place else. I don’t have time to be a rookie again.”
It will be fitting if Wayne is a Colts-for-life guy. And rare.
According to Pro Football Reference, 207 players have appeared in at least 208 games in NFL history. Wayne will be the 40th to have done so all with one team.
Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck appreciates Wayne’s staying power. He’s 39, in his 16th season and with his fourth team.
“Pretty rare,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s hard to survive regime changes, whether it be ownership, GM, head coach, coordinators. You give them any reason to find someone else exactly like you, and it’s going to happen.”
Adam Vinatieri is in his 19th season, turns 42 later this month and is considered a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Colts are his second team.
“This has been a perfect situation for Reggie,” he said. “It’s not the norm.”
Wayne’s desire to start what he finished with the Colts – they selected him with the 30th overall pick in the 2001 draft – played a major role in him spurning other offers and re-upping with a team in transition during the 2012 offseason. He agreed to take a “leap of faith” with first-year coach and long-time friend Chuck Pagano.
Sooner rather than later, Wayne will find himself face-to-face with another life-altering decision.
And, again, he’s at least allowed life-after-the-NFL to enter his mind. He’s convinced he won’t have a problem making the adjustment, when the time comes.
“I can really see myself enjoying it,” Wayne said. “When I retire, I want to make Corona commercials. I want to put my feet in the sand with the boss-lady on my left. Find me a beach.
“I just want to be able to do all the stuff I’ve never got a chance to do. There are so many family trips I’ve missed.”
A few weeks ago, Wayne was preparing for another game. His wife was making plans to take the kids to the zoo.
“I was like, ‘Damn, I want to go to the zoo, too,’” he said. “But I couldn’t. I had a game to play.”