|Wayne hoping to improve on big numbers|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 17 May 2008 12:47|
Once billed as the ultimate complimentary receiver to Marvin Harrison, Wayne has carved out his own rightful place among the NFL's best.
His receptions total has increased in each of seven NFL seasons, and Wayne is ready for the hardest part - improving those numbers again in 2008 after a career-best year in which he caught 104 passes and produced a league-high 1,510 yards receiving.
It's a challenge that Wayne, as usual, relishes.
``It's definitely going to be tough,'' he said Saturday as the Colts held their second day of mandatory mini-camp. ``I feel like I should be able to do that, that I should be able to take advantage of it.''
Wayne emerged last season as Peyton Manning's favorite target when Harrison went down with a left knee injury.
At times, he was Manning's only dependable option.
Harrison missed 11 regular-season games, first-round draft pick Anthony Gonzalez was hobbled by injuries throughout the season and Manning even lost tight end Dallas Clark for one game in November.
That's when Wayne excelled.
Forced to play against a litany of coverages to slow him down, an honor usually reserved for Harrison - the Colts' career leader in every major receiving category, Wayne continued catching passes and turned doubters into full-fledged believers.
``It was shutting up the critics,'' Wayne said. ``They were always talking about could I do it, could I do it. They always said it was because Marvin was there, which is true. But I was still able to do it when he wasn't there.''
Still, Wayne knows it would be better for Indianapolis to work in tandem.
The eight-time Pro Bowler is rehabilitating two bad knees, and finds himself part of an investigation into an alleged shooting incident in his hometown of Philadelphia. Harrison has been interviewed by police but has not been charged with any crime.
Agent Tom Condon denied Harrison was involved, and Colts officials have declined to comment specifically until they receive more credible information.
The Colts greater concern is making sure Harrison is healthy. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee following Indy's playoff loss to San Diego and has been rehabilitating an inflamed capsule in his left knee, the injury that kept him out a career-high 11 games last year.
Coach Tony Dungy said Harrison is in town for camp but is not working out this week because of his treatment. Mini-camp ends Sunday.
``We'll see where it (the investigation goes). I'm not really up on all the reports,'' Dungy said Saturday. ``The doctors are saying he (Harrison) should be fine. Last season, he had a great opening day and was on the way to having the type of year we expect from Marvin. So we think he'll be OK.''
Wayne, who may be the closest to Harrison, said he's not worried about the investigation, only Harrison's health.
And he can't to get him back. In fact, Harrison can't wait to get back on the field.
``You can tell it's definitely hurting him not being out there,'' Wayne said. ``That's where I got a lot of my practice skills from, because he never takes plays off so when Peyton's out there, I don't take plays off. We feed off each other and I'd much rather have him out there because the more we're together, the better off we'll be.''
But getting Harrison back also could impact Wayne's stats.
Of course, that's not how Wayne sees it. In an era where many receivers are often accused of being selfish, Wayne points out that with the two Pro Bowl receivers, the Colts won a Super Bowl. With Harrison at less than full strength they were eliminated in the divisional round of the playoffs.
``I like it that way because that way they can't key on me,'' Wayne said.
Besides, Wayne has already established himself, put up the gaudy numbers and won a Super Bowl ring.
All he really wants now is some more jewelry, and that's what Dungy likes to hear.
``He's gotten better every year since we got here, making those plays. He made a ton of big plays for us last year,'' Dungy said. ``That's really not a whole lot different than what he did from the previous three years, and that's what we'd like to see again this year.''