Is an injured Reggie Wayne hurting the Colts?

Chuck Pagano was visibly uncomfortable addressing the delicate subject. He was, at times, tense and terse.

But talking about veteran receiver Reggie Wayne's disappointing performances has become unavoidable for the Indianapolis Colts coach.

The topic was front and center again Monday, one day after the Colts pulled off an emotional 25-24, come-from-behind victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Pagano confirmed a key point he let slip during a postgame radio interview, acknowledging that Wayne indeed has a torn left triceps muscle.

But now what? Can the Colts continue to pretend Wayne can still be effective in spite of an injury that played a major role in his three drops Sunday? Doesn't a performance like Sunday do more harm than good as it relates to helping the Colts win?

Pagano, whose relationship with Wayne dates to the University of Miami in the late 1990s, wasn't prepared to go there.

"We're just going to put the guys out there we think can win football games, period," Pagano said when peppered with questions about whether it was wise to continue playing Wayne.

Wayne finished Sunday's game with one catch for five yards, relatively invisible for a guy who has 14,207 receiving yards in his 14 seasons. The drops were painful to watch, with the typically sure-handed Wayne coughing up balls that hit him squarely in both hands.

On Monday, Pagano was asked directly: Is Wayne hurting your team? Pagano answered the question with one of his own.

"Did you guys talk to Reggie?" he said. "I think he answered your question (Sunday), did he not? I thought he did it pretty eloquently, to be honest. A lot of guys had tough days. A lot of guys. We all have stuff. I've gotta get better, coach better. Across the board. If we want to get done what we want to get done, we all have to do better. Not one guy. Can't ever single out one guy."

Pagano was referencing Wayne's postgame interview when he said, among other things, "I basically told myself, 'You're doing everything you possibly can to throw this game."

Pagano briefly stopped tap-dancing around the issue, conceding the injury is impacting Wayne's performance.

"Is (his play) a byproduct of that," Pagano said. "Would I say no? No, I wouldn't. There's something there because we know the player that Reggie is, we know how he's contributed and we know how he can make the clutch catch. He had a tough day."

The 36-year old Wayne, according to Pagano, suffered the injury on Oct. 19 against the Bengals when he sustained what the Colts originally described as an elbow injury. He missed a single game, at Pittsburgh, then returned for a Monday night matchup against the Giants, catching four passes for 70 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown.

Pagano was noncommittal on whether he'd continue to play Wayne, but he does have one potential option. Wayne is scheduled to play in his 209th game when the Colts meet the Houston Texans on Sunday. It would put him ahead of Peyton Manning for the most games played of any Colt in franchise history. The Colts would then have two regular-season games remaining. Perhaps Pagano would consider sitting Wayne at that point, though he wouldn't entertain that possibility on Monday.

"We communicate with the trainers all the time," Pagano said. "The lines of communication are always open in regard to all the players, not just Reggie. We're going to do the best thing for the team that gives us the best chance to win and, obviously, what's best for the player."

The conversation eventually turned to whether Wayne has much left in his tank. He's on the down side of his career, clearly. This is a fact that no one, most of all Wayne, will argue. He's in the final year of his contract and hasn't committed to anything beyond this season nor addressed his future intentions.

When addressing how much Wayne has left, the issue is complicated by the injury. He was contributing prior to getting hurt – he had nine catches for 98 yards against the Denver Broncos and seven catches for 119 yards against the Tennessee Titans. Maybe he's not done yet. Maybe he can't be fairly evaluated when hurt.

So, Chuck Pagano, how much does Wayne have left?

"How much? I'm not Nostradamus. I don't know," he said. "I know he's got more. How much, I don't know. But I know he's got more. And he'll deliver. And he'll be back."

For now, though, Wayne's injury is making that quite difficult.

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