INDIANAPOLIS - Reggie Wayne is using his doubters as fuel in his bid to return to form at 35 years old while recovering from a torn ACL in 2013.
The Indianapolis Colts wide receiver has been on-hand at the opening of the team's offseason program this week, watching drills and continuing his rehab.
"I think there are exceptions to every rule," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said of Wayne's age and injury rehab. "I think Reggie Wayne is an exception to a lot of rules. We know he's going to come back and produce at a very high level and we're all very excited about it."
Part of the motivation for Wayne is to return to an offense loaded with talent. The Colts finished 15th in the NFL in total yards last season while averaging 341.8 per game.
That was with Wayne, tight end Dwayne Allen and running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vic Ballard missing much or all of the season due to injuries. General manager Ryan Grigson then added Hakeem Nicks during free agency to team with Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.
"You guys motivate me," Wayne told the Indianapolis Star. "You guys say that I can't do it. I'm 35. I'm over the hill. No way I can come back the same.
"I wasn't a big newspaper reader, but now I've become one. Hopefully I can get you guys to sing another tune. Next time I read it, maybe you guys will be saying I've found the fountain of youth."
He's committed to regaining his Pro Bowl form at 35. Only 12 players in NFL history have posted a 1,000-yard receiving season after their 35th birthday.
"For lack of a better word, he is a freak, I think, in terms of health and what he can do at his age," Luck said. "I'm very excited for him to get on the field, and we all know he'll come back and produce probably better than he ever has."
--Allen said he has recovered from surgery on both hips and a stress fracture in his foot.
"On paper, we look great. I'm very excited," he said. "I'm really eager to get us all out and together and moving around to see how well we mesh together and see what different combinations the coaches come up with to put on the field."
Allen said recently that while he wasn't sure how much work that he would be able to do at the start of preseason condition workouts, he has been fully cleared by team doctors to literally hit the ground running.
--Bradshaw decided to re-sign in March despite several injury plagued seasons. After dealing with ankle issues with the New York Giants, he signed a one-year deal with the Colts last season but wound up on injured reserve by October with a neck injury.
"Just the opportunities that this team has, the great leaders that they have. The great quarterback in Andrew," Bradshaw said of his decision to return. "I just think my leadership and my play will help this team out a lot."
He also has an opportunity to reunite with Nicks, who signed as a free agent from the Giants.
"That's like my brother," said Bradshaw. "We've been through a lot together. We won a championship together and just to have him out there I just know that things will be easier for us in the backfield, as for Andrew and the rest of the team."