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Team will use caution with veteran player


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When the Indianapolis Colts conduct their first training camp practice in three weeks, Reggie Wayne will be ready to suit up.

He, in fact, can’t wait — which is why he’s ready to mix it up with Chuck Pagano if the head coach decides to hold the Pro Bowl wide receiver out for any reason.

Pagano, after all, has hinted at the possibility.

“I’m planning on bringing some extra boxing gloves for me and Chuck, so whenever he tells me I can’t go, we’re just going to lace them up,” said Wayne, who declares himself almost fully recovered from last year’s season-ending knee injury. “I feel great.

“I can’t wait until camp.”

The wait ends July 23, when players report to Anderson University for training camp.

Wayne, who tore his right ACL during an Oct. 20 home win against Denver, did not participate in last week’s mandatory three-day minicamp. And though he continues to rehab, he expects to ready for the first day of two-a-days on July 24. The only question is, how much — if any — field time will he see during the early part of camp?

That will be determined by Pagano, who doesn’t plan to rush the six-time Pro Bowler back into the fold. Although he’s confident Wayne will return to elite form, he plans to take a cautious approach with the 35-year-old future Hall-of-Famer.

“You look at him, he looks phenomenal,” Pagano said. “You (media) guys probably haven’t seen him work out and run, but he looks great. I’d be shocked if he isn’t ready. The only reason he might not get reps early will be because of me if we decide to hold

him back.

“He’ll be ready.”

If Wayne is ready, he instantly enhances an already-solid receiving corps that could rank among the NFL’s best. Third-year pro T.Y. Hilton is coming off a 1,000-plus yard season; former New York Giants star Hakeem Nicks was signed as a free agent during the offseason; and third-year tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen have emerged as reliable targets.

Not surprisingly, Wayne — No. 8 on the league’s all-time receptions list with 1,006 — is anxious to rejoin the group.

“I feel like I kind of left them hanging a little bit last year, so I want to get back out there with my teammates,” said Wayne, who went down in Week 7. “We all crawled and scratched and did everything possible to go out there and play.

“Guys in this locker room, that’s who I want to get back out there with.”

Not to prove anything to anybody, but to pick up where he left off.

At the time of his injury, he was enjoying another Pro Bowl-caliber year. Hurt in the closing minutes of a nationally televised game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, Wayne was the Colts’ leading receiver with season totals of 38 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns.

But for Wayne, the worst part of getting hurt had nothing to do with numbers and everything to do with missing the rest of what was another special year for the Colts.

Earning his second Pro Bowl nod in as many years, quarterback Andrew Luck directed Indianapolis to a second straight 11-5 regular season-record and a second-straight playoff appearance. The Colts advanced to the second round and are widely regarded as Super Bowl contenders heading into the new season.

Wayne, who has topped 1,000 receiving yards eight times in his 13-year career, would love nothing more than to help lead the Colts to a championship in his 14th season.

“I want to be out there with the team. I don’t feel like I’ve got anything to prove to nobody,” said Wayne, who has had four seasons with 100-plus receptions, the most recent being 2012. “I know what I can do. These guys in the locker room know what I’m capable of doing. Now it’s time to show the guys, the first-timers that haven’t seen me play, the ones that keep calling me ‘Mr. Wayne,’ the ones that keep talking about that they’ve been playing with me on Madden. It’s time for me to show those guys what I can do.

“I’m excited, man, I am. I feel great. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be ready in July. I guess Chuck is the only reason. I’m good, man. I’m ready to go.”

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