Last year the Indianapolis Colts lost running back Vick Ballard to a freak practice injury in the second week of the season. Before that, the closest Ballard had come to injury was when he tripped and fell during his timed 40 at the NFL Combine (bless, he really went for it, and I respect that). About a month later, he had company in rehab.
When Reggie Wayne went down against the Denver Broncos, we all heard Cris Collinsworth say, “Reggie Wayne is a guy who never gets hurt,” so Colts fans may not realize that Wayne has been here before. Back in 1998, Peyton Manning was a rookie with the Colts, Ballard was eight years old and Wayne, in his sophomore season with the Miami Hurricanes, tore his left ACL. At the time, he was leading the team in receptions and had started 19 straight games. He was back for his junior season in 1999, and no one has really mentioned it since.
No doubt when Wayne’s right ACL tore last fall, he knew immediately what had happened. Everyone who has experienced an ACL tear talks about the distinctive, horrifying “pop” that they both heard and felt reverberating through their entire body. He’d experienced it before, and he knew what would come next.
Wayne, ever in leadership mode, has led by example, going through his rehab process two and three times a day, steadily regaining strength and range of motion. Ballard noticed and started following suit, no doubt benefiting from being around a guy who’d done it before successfully, who knew when to push himself and when to back off. It’s easy for injured guys to feel a little disconnected from the team; having a rehab buddy has likely been beneficial for Wayne, too. Now, both men are on track to start the season, and Wayne’s on record saying that he’s ahead of schedule.