Colts' Wayne emerges as Colts top receiver in absence of Harrison Print
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Saturday, 12 January 2008 01:05
NFL Headline News

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Reggie Wayne spent six seasons trying to create his own niche in the Indianapolis Colts offense.
At least, he shouldn't have to worry about that any more.
When Marvin Harrison went down with a left knee injury in October, Wayne responded with a career season, catching 104 passes, earning the NFL title for yards receiving (1,510) and finally stealing some of those headlines that always went to Harrison and Peyton Manning.
Welcome to the big time, Reggie.
``I don't think there's one receiver in this league that doesn't see himself as a No. 1 receiver, even if they're No. 4,'' Wayne said. ``For me, the only change was really that I got a couple of extra balls.''
The truth is Wayne has been performing at a Pro Bowl level for four years now even if few outside Indianapolis noticed.
He caught a career-high 12 touchdown passes in 2004, when Manning broke Dan Marino's NFL mark for most touchdown passes in a single season and was bypassed for the Pro Bowl.
In 2005, voters ignored him again despite producing a second straight 1,000-yard season.
Finally after catching 86 passes for 1,310 yards last year, Wayne finally was rewarded for overcoming an emotional season that included the death of his brother, Rashad, in a Louisiana traffic accident. Wayne won a Super Bowl ring and earned his first trip to Hawaii.
This season, Wayne wanted to do even more, and when Harrison went down with a left knee injury on Sept. 30, Wayne took over the No. 1 job.
As the only established outside threat left on the Colts, Wayne emerged as Manning's go-to receiver and put up numbers usually associated with Harrison.
``I think that's one of the best things we've done this year - we haven't used injuries as an excuse,'' Manning said. ``We said 'Let's go make it work.' ``
Wayne led the way.
Against the litany of double teams Harrison typically faced, Wayne caught 38 passes in the first five games after the injury and was most impressive at San Diego in November.
He caught 10 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown in the game, essentially doing it by himself against one of the league's top secondaries.
Harrison sat out with the knee injury, tight end Dallas Clark was out because of a concussion and first-round pick Anthony Gonzalez was out with a dislocated thumb. Plus, the Colts were forced to throw after falling into a 23-0 first-half deficit.
No problem.
Wayne played well enough to help position the Colts for a late rally, one that fell short when Adam Vinatieri missed a potentially winning 29-yard field goal with 1:31 left.
In Sunday's playoff game, the Chargers know it will be even more difficult to stop Wayne and the Colts.
``You have to prepare for a fast-paced game, you know, almost like a basketball game, because that's the type of offense they are,'' San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer said. ``They're one of the two top offenses in this league, and anytime you can go against a quarterback of that stature, with the receivers that he has, it's always a challenge.''
The good news for the Colts is Wayne should have some help this week.
Harrison is expected to start Sunday after practicing all three days this week. He's missed a career-high 11 games, including 10 straight.
Just don't expect Wayne, the second Colts receiver in franchise history to top 100 catches in a season, to revert to his old role. Because the Colts are concerned about Harrison's stamina, coach Tony Dungy is considering putting Harrison on a play count, a tactic that hasn't always been successful in the past.
``It's hard,'' Dungy said. ``We try to do it. It just doesn't always hold up. So we'll see.''
For opponents, covering two No. 1 receivers is a tricky proposition.
But to Wayne, only one thing really matters now: Winning another Super Bowl.
``It's huge because not many people can say they have either one of them,'' Wayne said of this year's reception and yardage totals. ``But if we fall now, all that stuff is irrelevant because we want to win another Super Bowl.''
 

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