NFL Nation: Reggie Wayne

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne go way back. Well, sort of.

Wayne, a New Orleans-area native, was among the ones who got away when Payton was recruiting the area for the University of Illinois in his final year as a college coach in 1996.

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Payton brought up that memory Tuesday when asked for his general impressions of Wayne throughout his stellar 13-year career and what he thinks of Wayne now trying to come back from a torn ACL at the age of 35.

It's possible that Wayne will make his preseason debut against the Saints on Saturday night, though that hasn't been decided yet.

"He's an extremely talented player," Payton said. "I know him a little bit uniquely because I was here in Louisiana recruiting high school players for the University of Illinois, C.J. and I."

That "C.J." refers to Curtis Johnson, the current Tulane head coach and former Saints receivers coach, who had a recruiting stranglehold on the New Orleans area back in those days. Johnson helped woo Wayne and safety Ed Reed, among others, to the University of Miami. Johnson also helped lure Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk to San Diego State, where Johnson and Payton first worked together.

"We spent a better part of a week going in and out of these schools," Payton continued. "I would say we got to about 30, 35 schools. Had I been just solo with a map, I probably would have gotten to 12. But Curtis would drive in, parking lot, back door, in a gymnasium, right to the coach, where normally you might go to the front desk and get a pass and go through all the correct steps. But that year, Reggie Wayne was coming out, that year Ed Reed was coming out. There was another good player coming out of St. Augustine High School, I think a defensive tackle, I can't think of his name. There were a handful of good players coming out. So I remember his recruitment, I remember hearing what I heard from Curtis and then over the years followed him.

"Look, he is very competitive. He's the type of player that could do that, that could recover from an injury like that. And he has had a great career."

I asked Payton if he ever beat out Johnson for a New Orleans-area prospect.

"Not while he was at Miami. No," said Payton, who remains close with Johnson and the Tulane program. "Every year there is great talent (in the New Orleans area). And one of the things he is doing so well at Tulane is identifying, recruiting, and those guys are winning their battles. It starts with the procurement of talent. He is very good at that."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Of all the disappointments in the New York Giants' hugely disappointing 2013 season, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks may have stood out the most. The team's 2009 first-round pick went the entire year without a touchdown, got benched for a critical November game against the Cowboys and was allowed to leave as a free agent without any effort being made to re-sign him. An ugly and surprising end in New York for a Super Bowl hero who'd previously been counted among the hardest-working and productive on the team.

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Nicks landed with the Indianapolis Colts, and coincidentally the Giants are headed to Indianapolis for their next preseason game Saturday night. Nicks still has plenty of friends on the team, and they're looking forward to a reunion.

"Always good to see Hakeem," Giants safety Antrel Rolle said Wednesday. "And I think he landed in a blessed situation. Most important, alongside [veteran Colts receiver] Reggie Wayne. I'm a longtime friend of Reggie Wayne's, and I understand his work ethic and his craft. Hakeem having someone above him to lay down the foundation, lay the law down, is going to help him improve his game that much more."

Interesting point. Even once Victor Cruz emerged, Nicks was kind of the most seasoned and veteran receiver on the Giants during a time when he was still quite young. Heck, he's still only 26. Being part of a receiving corps that has the veteran Wayne and the emerging young T.Y. Hilton could be a benefit to Nicks if one of his problems last year was dealing with pressure.

Either way, as nice as it'll be for Rolle to see Nicks, he'll also be trying to stop him.

"I'm excited to see Hakeem, but there are no friends out there on the field, and I know he understands that," Rolle said. "I know he feels the same way about us. This is home for him. I'm just looking forward to the game. It's going to be a great battle."
Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.

INDIANAPOLIS -- So money over marijuana, LaVon Brazill?

That is what Brazill told reporters in training camp in July 2013 after he revealed he was suspended for the first four games of last season for smoking marijuana.

It turns out that was just talk by the Brazill. Now he won’t be making any of the $570,000 he was scheduled to make in 2014 because taking substances not allowed by the NFL is more important.

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The NFL suspended Brazill for at least the 2014 season for again violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Don’t be surprised if his two-touchdown performance against New England in the playoffs turns out to be the final time you see Brazill in an Indianapolis Colts uniform.

Brazill’s suspension does make things easier for the Colts coaching staff when it comes to picking the final receiver spots on the roster.

He was expected to be one of the primary options with Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen to compete for possibly up to two receiving spots on the roster depending on how many the Colts decide to keep.

Now Rogers and Whalen have the inside track if the Colts go with six receivers on the roster. The Colts are set with the first four receivers: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is headed into his third season. He has played in three playoff games -- winning one -- and has had two offensive coordinators in his first two seasons.

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Luck also has 22 regular-season victories, an arm, mobility and the will the win. That is why ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando, with the help of anonymous league insiders Insider, views the Colts’ franchise player as a top-five quarterback in the league.

Luck is ranked higher than fellow quarterbacks like Manning. No, not that Manning, but Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The quarterbacks are broken up into four tiers. Luck is in Tier 1 with all future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He joins Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in that top tier. Impressive company for a third-year player.

Here is what Sando wrote about Luck:

"Luck doesn't have the track record of the other Tier 1 QBs, and there was a clear gap in the voting between him and the top four. But people in the league love him almost unconditionally, and 14 of the 26 voters insisted upon putting him in the top tier (each of the top four received 25 of 26 Tier 1 votes).

The evaluators think Luck has carried a subpar roster to a 22-10 record without much help. They see no limitations. They have zero doubt about his long-term stardom and felt strongly enough to give him 14 first-tier votes even while acknowledging he is below the Big Four at this early stage. Every other QB fell into the tier in which he received the most votes, and so shall Luck, even if his Tier 1 designation feels a bit premature."

The Colts' offensive line was atrocious Luck’s rookie season and only a little better last season. Luck didn’t have a reliable receiver to turn to outside of T.Y. Hilton after Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL in Week 7 last season. The running game? That was a problem, too.

Projecting Colts starters

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot can happen for the Indianapolis Colts between now and Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Injured players become completely healthy. Healthy players get injured. Projected starters get beat out by a teammate.

But that hasn't stopped fans from asking about what the Colts' depth chart will look like this season. It's July and players, coaches and front office officials are taking one last vacation before reporting for the start of training camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23. So for the next two days I'll take a shot at who I think the starters will be.

We'll start with the offense today. We'll do the defense on Tuesday.

Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: This is self-explanatory. Go ahead and keep Luck's name there as long as he's healthy.

Running back: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Stanley Havili

Comment: As I mentioned last week when I did position battles, Richardson will be given the first shot at starting because of his talent and the last thing the Colts want to show is that their trade for him last September was a failure.

Receiver: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks

Comments: The pressure isn't on Wayne to be the Reggie Wayne of a few years ago because he has help with Hilton and Nicks at the position, but Wayne is out to prove that he can still produce at the age 35 and after tearing his ACL.

Tight end: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen

Comment: Allen is a better all-around tight end than Fleener, but he missed all but one game last season because of a hip injury.

Offensive line: (LT) Anthony Castonzo, (LG) Jack Mewhort, (C) Khaled Holmes, (RG) Hugh Thornton, (RT) Gosder Cherilus

Comment: The only position really up in the air at the moment is left guard. Mewhort currently has the edge because Donald Thomas didn't take part in offseason workouts and he moved ahead of Lance Louis during organized team activities (OTAs).
INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie Wayne has watched the play at least 10 times. He starts in motion, comes across the middle of the field wide open. Haul in the pass and he’ll be celebrating in the end zone seconds later as the Indianapolis Colts would have extended their lead over the Denver Broncos to 13 points last October.

But the pass from quarterback Andrew Luck was underthrown. Wayne, like he’s done countless times during what will end up being a Hall of Fame career, attempts to make an impressive catch. His foot, according to Wayne, got caught in the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, causing him to tear the ACL in his right knee.

While others may cringe looking at such a bad injury, Wayne has looked at it with a straight face, the same type of seriousness he’s taken over the past eight months while working his way back from the knee injury.

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Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesColts WR Reggie Wayne is looking forward to proving all of his doubters wrong.
“I wanted to see it because I’m going to do that same thing a million more times,” Wayne said. “It’s something I want to see and I’m going to keep watching it until I’m back out there.”

Wayne’s road to recovery from what he revealed for the first time Thursday as his third ACL tear has been more challenging than the other two.

He’s not the same 20-year-old kid at the University of Miami whose body allowed him to recover more quickly. Wayne’s 35 years old and his NFL career is winding down. His body has gotten to the point where it reacts to the weather. Colder days make it tougher on him than when he has beads of sweat running down the side of his face from the sweltering heat.

“Back in ‘98, I was a young buck,” Wayne said. “I knew I had some time. Now I’m 35, I don’t have any more redshirt eligibility left, so it’s been different. At the same time, it’s been humbling. But for some strange reason, I’m a little hungrier now than I was then.”

Wayne felt like he left his teammates hanging because he wasn’t out there with them for the final 11 games of the season. But as time went by, he had a premonition, one that kind of leaves you scratching your head because an ACL injury isn’t easy to overcome. He believes the injury helped the rest of his body.

“This is probably the healthiest I’ve been since '02,” Wayne said. “One blessing I do take out of last year is that maybe it was time to let my body heal. I took pride in being out there in every game. I tried my best to not leave any T’s uncrossed. Maybe it was time for me to sit back a little bit and get my body back together and I’ve done that.”

Wayne had no problem admitting that the media and doubters fueled him as he rehabbed his knee before anybody showed up at the team’s facility in the morning and long after they left in the evening.

Is Wayne done? Can Wayne regain his form? Will Wayne hurt the Colts more than help them?

Those are questions going through many people's heads but they won’t be answered until Wayne officially returns to the field. He meets with Dr. John Uribe in Miami on a regular basis. His most recent visit didn’t involve any fluid in his knee and that’s why Wayne believes he’s on his way.

Wayne’s been running routes at the team’s facility, but that’s obviously different than doing it with pads on, with a defensive back jamming him at the line of scrimmage or running an out pattern with a cornerback draped on his back.

“I feel like I have nothing to prove to anybody,” Wayne said. “I know what I can do. Guys in this locker room know what I can do. Now it’s time to show the first-timers who have not seen me play, the ones that keep calling me Mr. Wayne, ones that say they played with me on 'Madden.' There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be ready [for training camp] in July.”

Wayne is headed into the final year of his contract. He doesn’t know how many more years he plans to play, instead preferring to use the phrase “day to day.” Just know, Wayne plans to make 2014 a memorable season because the clock is counting down on him. Luck recently referred to Wayne as a "freak" because of the things he's been able to do.

“I know what my age is, I know when something is against me,” he said. “I’m geeked about being able to show everybody what I can do at 35.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- There was a pair of eyes constantly peeking out from the Indianapolis Colts' indoor practice facility onto the outdoor practice field during the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday.

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Those eyes belonged to veteran receiver Reggie Wayne.

Wayne, as expected for months, is not taking part in the team's minicamp because he's still working his way back from a torn ACL, suffered in Week 7 last season.

"He was ready to run in there right at the end of that team drill," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He looks great. Again, we're going to have to have plenty of security around him so he doesn't sneak out in pads come training camp time and try to get in there too soon. We all know what Reggie's made of and how he's wired and what his DNA is, and so he's chomping at the bit obviously to get back out there."

So will Wayne, who is determined to prove doubters wrong about being able to return from a torn ACL at age 35, be ready for training camp at the end of July?

"I'd be shocked, I'd be shocked if he wouldn't be," Pagano said.

Wayne isn't the only Colts' player trying to return from a season-ending injury suffered last year. Running backs Vick Ballard (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), offensive lineman Donald Thomas (quad/bicep) and tight end Dwayne Allen (hip) all had their seasons cut short.

Bradshaw and Allen are taking part in the minicamp. Ballard and Thomas are headed in the right direction with their rehab, according to Pagano.

"We're anticipating having most of those guys," Pagano said. "There may be one or two out of that group that might have to start on PUP, but our guys, Dave Hammer and the crew and our doctors are optimistic that none of those guys will have to."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts starting safety LaRon Landry wasn't required to take part in the team's organized team activities because they're voluntary. The three-day mandatory minicamp is the only time players are required to report to the team's facility.

Three days.

But Landry was not on the field for the first day of minicamp Tuesday.

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The reason?

He hadn't undergone the required physical yet. This isn't a new physical that's being required, but it's the same physical veteran players are required to take before minicamp every year.

“(Monday night) we had an administrative meeting,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “(You) can't do any football first day. Every single vet on the football team, except the rookies have to go do physicals.”

Landry, by the way, was the only veteran player who did not take part in minicamp Tuesday because he didn't take his physical. He's also the only player not to be in facility during the offseason. Landry doesn't work out with the team during the offseason because he prefers to work out on his own. He's one of the more fit players in the NFL, but it's more than about being in shape.

Landry's about to have a new starting safety playing alongside of him, the Colts struggled as a defensive unit last season and Landry didn't have a great first season with the team. He missed four games with an ankle injury while finishing with 96 tackles and no interceptions.

“LaRon works as hard as anybody, wished it was here most of the time,” Pagano said. “I know that he's working. He probably does too much.”

As far as other players who missed Tuesday's session, defensive lineman Cory Redding was excused to tend to a family matter. Cornerback Vontae Davis has a groin injury and Pagano said safety Delano Howell is dealing with a soft tissue injury without going into specifics.

As expected, receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), running back Vick Ballard (knee) and offensive lineman Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) also didn't take part.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The final significant days of the offseason for the Indianapolis Colts (outside of when commissioner Roger Goodell disciplines owner Jim Irsay) starts Tuesday at the team's facility when they begin the first of three days of mandatory minicamp before breaking up for the final time prior to reporting for training camp July 23.

Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe competition at running back, including Trent Richardson, won't be decided in this week's mandatory minicamp.
Offensive line battle: You can go ahead and put Khaled Holmes down as the starting center, but with Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) still working his way back, the starting guard positions could end up taking some time. Hugh Thornton, who took Thomas's spot after he was injured last season, has been working with the first team at right guard during organized team activities. Lance Louis had been working with the first team at left guard, but rookie Jack Mewhort, the Colts' second-round pick, moved ahead of him last week. The competition will intensify during training camp.

Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.

Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.

The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."

Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?

Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne has already let it be known that he wants to prove the doubters who question whether he can return to form at age 35 following ACL surgery wrong.

Wayne isn't taking part in the team's organized team activities as expected, but quarterback Andrew Luck has seen enough of his go-to receiver to make him believe that Wayne will be just fine.

"His attitude is awesome," Luck said. "He's around, he's coaching, he's talking football. I feel like I know Reggie. He's going to be back better than ever doing things that the 35-plus years olds shouldn't be allowed to do on this earth. He's a freak."

The plan all along was to bring Wayne, who tore his ACL in Week 7 against Denver last season, back slowly. He was cleared for football activities in late April but he's not expected to take the field with his teammates until training camp. Players report for camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A common phrase used by the Indianapolis Colts last season was: power running game.

They had do-everything quarterback Andrew Luck, but they insisted on a being a run-first team. The only sign of that working happened in their Week 3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Injuries and lack of running game from Trent Richardson and Donald Brown forced the Colts to basically become a no-huddle offensive team by the end of the season.

They started the season mixing in some two-back sets. They ended it basically using one-back, one-tight-end, three-receiver sets.

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New season, new mind frame from offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

"We’re going to be a score-first team," Hamilton said. "We’re going to do whatever we need to do to score one more point than our opponent."

Don’t kid yourself; Hamilton won't allow Luck to drop back in the pocket and fling the ball downfield -- even if he does have plenty of weapons at his disposal -- 50 times per game. The Colts will still run the ball, which is why they have three backs they think will carry the load.

But as Hamilton said, it’s all about scoring more points than the opponent, and that likely will end up being with Luck doing what he does best: using his arm.

The Colts threw the ball 582 times and ran it 409 times last season.

"Our mentality has not changed; we have to be physical at the point of attack. We have to try and knock people off the ball and wear them down physically," Hamilton said. "We have to have a sense of balance and still have a physical mentality, make up going into games so we can wear our opponents down how we see fit."

Hamilton had an opportunity to leave the NFL to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, but he decided to return to the Colts because he believes in the product they have in the organization. He’s back for Year 2 as an NFL offensive coordinator, and instead of being forced to dig deep into the playbook to find plays to suit their offensive personnel, Hamilton should have a cupboard full of healthy players next season barring any setbacks with their return from injuries.

By Week 7 last season, the Colts were without tight end Dwayne Allen, guard Donald Thomas, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and receiver Reggie Wayne for the season. Those players were replaced by Jack Doyle, Weslye Saunders, Hugh Thornton, Brown, Richardson, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen.

No offense to those players, but that’s a drop-off for Hamilton, who at times made some questionable play calls to work with.

Things should be different this season for him and the Colts.

"Not only do we have some guys that are proven playmakers in the National Football League, but we have an opportunity to build on what we accomplished last year and hopefully take that next step," Hamilton said. "It’ll be great to have Reggie, Dwayne and all those guys available to see if we can go out and accomplish our ultimate goal.

"The toughest part [of last season] was making sure that we had the packages available to accommodate the personnel changes that were made from week to week. When I say personnel changes, I’m talking about the attrition, the attrition that we had to deal with. Other than that, it wasn’t tough. When you have Andrew Luck, that really gives you an ability to adapt to whatever the circumstances are and have a chance to be successful."
Here's a Memorial Day edition of the mailbag:
 
INDIANAPOLIS -- The choice to curl up in the fetal position to avoid the challenge that lay ahead was waiting for the Indianapolis Colts the past two seasons.

A head coach that missed 12 weeks as he battled leukemia. A rookie quarterback taking over a 14-loss team from the year before. Five offensive players, including a likely Hall of Fame receiver, going down with season-ending injuries.

[+] EnlargeChuck Pagano
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesCoach Chuck Pagano's Colts need to improve their offensive line play to help a lowly rushing attack.
But there the Colts stood when it was all said and done with 11 wins in each of the past two seasons.

That's why as the organization was dealt a devastating blow to the gut by the announced NFL suspension of pass-rush artist Robert Mathis last week and the possible suspension of owner Jim Irsay at some point, there hasn't been any wavering of what the expectations are for next season.

That's not how the Colts approach things. That message was relayed more than two years ago, when general manager Ryan Grigson took over the rebuilding franchise and hired an unproven head coach in Chuck Pagano. And that was the message passed through the facility on the west side of Indianapolis after Mathis was suspended.

"We’ve had our fair share of bumps in the road," Grigson said. "We’ve had quite a bit of significant ones, but at the end of the day, we know we’re judged by wins and losses. This league is all about the bottom line, and we understand that.

"You can't sit there and cry a river when you have mounting injuries or you have unfortunate things happen because it's just life, and it's life in the NFL. We roll with the punches."

Ask anybody in the Colts organization why they haven’t fallen apart or even shown signs of cracking, and they point at Pagano.

Pagano didn’t have to overcome a broken arm or foot to return to the sidelines in 2012. He was in a nasty slugfest with cancer. It was a fight that took him out for 12 weeks, but he returned at the end of that season and hasn’t left since.

"I’ve been around a lot of teams and college teams, and this franchise is a no-excuse franchise," Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said.

Pagano doesn’t look at his illness as the reason the Colts have managed to overcome the obstacles that seem to continue to get in their way.

It boils down to trust, loyalty and respect with Indianapolis, something Irsay has constantly preached, to go with exceptional talent.

Colts southeast regional scout Jamie Moore put on a presentation last year in which he researched some of professional sports' legendary dynasties: the Montreal Canadiens, New York Yankees and Boston Celtics.

The Colts are far from a dynasty. They’ve yet to win a Super Bowl with Andrew Luck at quarterback. What Grigson and Pagano took away from the presentation, though, was the blueprint those teams used to build their franchises: being innovative, thinking outside the box and -- probably the most important of the three -- checking egos at the door.

The Colts have avoided internal conflicts because everybody has the same goal: winning as many games as possible, not worrying about individual stats.

"We laid out a foundation when we first got here," Pagano said. "We talked about a vision. We know what the vision is, [the Super Bowl banner is] hanging in the indoor practice facility. We talked about an environment and culture we wanted to create and then we talked about the process and how you go about your business."

Replacing Mathis for the first four games of the 2014 season won’t be easy. Anybody who says the Colts will be fine without last season's NFL sack leader likely isn’t telling the truth. For as much as Mathis is known for his strip-sacks, his presence inside the locker room has been just as valuable.

"Our team knows what’s at stake, same thing with Reggie [Wayne] being hurt," Grigson said. "If you lose somebody who is so significant to your franchise for a set amount of time, it's going to send everyone reeling for a second until we fall back on those things we've been preaching. Guys aren't going to have to step up in a serviceable way; they have to play at a championship level this year. Everyone does."
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said he would revisit contract extensions after free agency and the NFL draft.

Well, the free-agency frenzy and draft have concluded.

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Dimitroff and the Falcons can now address unfinished business regarding some of their veterans. One player who immediately comes to mind is receiver Roddy White, who anticipated receiving an extension after the draft, not anytime sooner.

White, a former first-round pick, is signed through the 2014 season. He has a base salary of $5 million and a cap figure of $6.35 million in 2014.

Signing White to an extension would help lower his cap number, making it a win for both sides. He could be looking at an extension similar to the one Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne got in March of 2012. But being that it's two years later with an increased salary cap, White no doubt wants more.

Wayne, then 33, signed a three-year extension worth $17.5 million with $7.5 million guaranteed. He received a $6.5 million signing bonus, and his cap figures were the following: $3,167,171 in 2013, $8,167,191 in 2014, $6,166,668 in 2015.

White, who turns 33 in November, previously told ESPN.com he wants to play three or four more years. He had his consecutive streak of 1,000-yard seasons snapped at six last year as hamstring and ankle injuries limited him to 711 receiving yards in 13 games. He also had a consecutive games streak end at 133.

The Falcons understand White's value despite last year's drop-off. Not drafting a receiver probably emphasized their belief in him as well as their faith in Julio Jones' full recovery from foot surgery. Jones, signed through 2015 after a fifth-year option worth $10.176 million was executed, is sure to be rewarded with a lucrative new deal at some point.

As for White, he showed flashes of his old self toward the end of last season when he caught 38 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns over the final four games.

His teammates respect him. Fellow receiver Harry Douglas constantly refers to him as a big brother. And White has every intention to finish his career in Atlanta.

"I want to be here, no doubt about it," White told ESPN.com in December. "I've spent my whole career here. And I love the organization. I love everyone in it."

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