The Indianapolis Colts' worst fears were confirmed on Monday morning, when an MRI revealed a torn ACL in the right knee of receiver Reggie Wayne. The 13-year veteran suffered the injury as he was reaching for an errant Andrew Luck pass with 7:45 left in the fourth quarter of the Colts' 39-33 Sunday night win over the Denver Broncos. Initial tests from team doctors led the team to believe that Wayne would miss the rest of the season, and the MRI confirms the news. ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report the results of the MRI.
"We hate to lose anybody, but this one stings," head coach Chuck Pagano said on Monday. "You just don't replace guys like #87. But he'll be back. I know how he's wired, what his DNA is, and how he is as a man. Everybody's gonna say, 'No way,' but after the conversation I just had with him, just wait and see. We'll all put on the gloves for Reggie, and we'll help him get through this."
The injury ends a streak of 189 straight games played for Wayne, the longest among all active players. It also puts a major burden on the team's remaining receiver corps, as Wayne was the leader in targets, catches and yards in the first year-and-a-half of the franchise's new era under Pagano and with Luck running the offense.
“It stinks to the nth degree,” Luck said after the game. “I put a lot of blame on myself for missing him. I don’t think there was anybody within a square mile of him. I missed it. We hope for the best.”
It was thought after the Colts' 2-14 season in 2011 that Wayne would be on the scrap heap, destined for the franchise fire sale that took place after owner Jim Irsay released Peyton Manning and moved on from team president Bill Polian in the '12 preseason. But under offensive coordinators Bruce Arians and Pep Hamilton in the last two years, Wayne reinvented himself to become one of the most valuable receivers in the game. He blocked inline at a superlative level when asked to do so, expanded his game to embrace Arians' more complex route concepts and provided valuable veteran leadership for Luck and a host of other young players as the Colts surprised the NFL with an 11-5 record in 2012.
The Colts' 5-2 record this season, and their ability to push Denver off the perch of the undefeated, was darkened by the loss of their second-most important offensive player.
With Wayne out for the season, and tight end Dwayne Allen lost in September to a hip injury, Luck will be without two of his most reliable targets for the rest of the season. This will certainly increase the opportunities for second-year speedster T.Y. Hilton, who ranks second on the team with 54 targets and 412 yards. Veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey will be expected to step up as well, though drops have always been a problem for him. The Colts don't have a player on the roster who can do all the things Wayne can do, but this is a great opportunity for tight end Coby Fleener, who played with Luck at Stanford, to improve his game.
Selected in the first round of the 2001 draft out of Miami, Wayne has caught 1,006 passes for 13,566 yards and 80 touchdowns in his career. He is one of nine receivers in NFL history to pass the 1,000-reception mark.