INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne was the Colts’ ballast.
When he was suddenly surrounded by rookies and newcomers last season, Wayne took it upon himself to show the youngsters how things were done in the NFL. When Andrew Luck had a question about a defense or a coverage, Wayne could provide the answer. And when Luck needed someone to bail him out on the field, well, Wayne always seemed to get open.
Now the Colts need someone to fill in for Wayne.
You can’t replace Reggie, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said Tuesday. I’ve been here 12 years and I’ve never seen him miss a game, and I’ve rarely seen him miss a practice. But you’ve got to take it and go and we’ve got some good young guys who are ready to do that.
Indianapolis (5-2) made everything official Tuesday by putting Wayne on season-ending injured reserve for the first time in his 13-year career. The move ended his streak of consecutive games played at 189.
Losing the perennial Pro Bowler is a huge blow for a team that has a two-game lead over Tennessee in the AFC South and has already beaten three of the league’s top teams – San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. And Wayne has played a huge role in Indianapolis’ remarkably quick turnaround.
What will the Colts do now?
There has been rampant speculation that general manager Ryan Grigson will again go shopping, and Grigson’s reputation as a dealer has played right into the rumors. Since joining the Colts in January 2012, he has made 16 trades including last month’s blockbuster to acquire running back Trent Richardson from Cleveland for a first-round pick in 2014.
Some believe he will make another move during Indianapolis’ bye week and before next week’s trade deadline.
The most popular names being floated are Kenny Britt, Josh Gordon and Hakeem Nicks, though, this time could be different.
And while Grigson and Browns CEO Joe Banner have a relationship that dates to their time together in Philadelphia, and Nicks seems to fit Grigson’s model, a young, talented player who hasn’t fulfilled all expectations, Grigson may be running out of trade bait.
In addition to sending that first-round pick to the Browns, Indianapolis also dealt a fourth-rounder in 2014 to Cleveland so they could take defensive tackle Montori Hughes in April. The Colts sent another pick, reportedly a seventh-rounder, to San Francisco for linebacker Cam Johnson. And while Grigson has managed to get two picks back in other deals, it is believed one of those picks will come in the 2015 draft.
That means the Colts may need their own players to do their jobs better or finding help on the free-agent market. Veterans looking for work include Deion Branch, Braylon Edwards, Brandon Lloyd and Mike Thomas, but that would not be a simple transition.
Indianapolis did sign cornerback Jalil Brown to take Wayne’s roster spot. Brown was Kansas City’s fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft.