Indianapolis Colts

Reggie Wayne reveals why short time with Patriots was 'best job ever'

Reggie Wayne reveals why short time with Patriots was 'best job ever'

Reggie Wayne wasn't an employee of the New England Patriots for very long, but it certainly wasn't a waste of time.

Wayne was a free agent in 2015 after a brilliant 14-year career with the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted the wide receiver in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. He signed with the Patriots in the preseason that year, and included in his contract was a $450,000 signing bonus.

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The veteran wideout ultimately decided to retire before Week 1 of the regular season. Wayne offered to give back his signing bonus, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told him that wasn't needed. As you might imagine, Wayne was very appreciative of the gesture.

“I went up to him and I said, ‘Hey, this is what it is. I know got a signing bonus. I’ll give it back, no biggie,” Wayne said on the "Hellipod" podcast with NFL Media's Dan Hellie. ”Bill Belichick told me to keep it, man. Told me to keep it. I’m like, ‘Hey, you ain’t got to bend my arm back twice.’ He told me to keep it. And that was love, man. And I always had respect for him. I’ve heard people and seen stuff that he’s done on camera of his respect for me, and maybe that was just his sign of appreciation. We had a lot of battles against that team, so he told me to keep it. We kept it in the bank. I appreciate it. Hey, the best job ever.”

Earning $450,000-plus for a couple weeks of work is pretty good. That really does sound like the best job ever.

Wayne's also correct when he says the Colts had a ton of battles against the Patriots. Whether it was the many memorable regular season games or the classic playoff matchups in 2003, 2004 and 2006, Wayne had a front row seat to one of the best rivalries in league history.

It didn't work out with the Patriots, but it sounds like Wayne left with plenty of respect for Belichick and the organization.

NFL win totals: Best over and under bets after schedule release

NFL win totals: Best over and under bets after schedule release

Some may assume that the 2020 NFL schedule release won't have much of an impact on projected win totals for the upcoming season. After all, everyone already knew who each team was set to play against in 2020. So, the order in which the games are played shouldn't matter too much, right?

Wrong.

The schedule actually has a huge impact on picking win totals. The placement of bye weeks is one of the major factors. So too are stretches at the start of the season where it can be assumed that teams will be mostly healthy. So, if a team has a favorable stretch of opponents to open the year, the over may look better. But a few tough contests to start things off, or a brutal three to four-week span at any point in the season, could spell trouble.

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At the end of the day, it's impossible to predict everything right in the NFL. But for now, here are a few teams that are the best bets for the over and few that are solid bets for the under on their win totals.

All over/under totals are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Over Bets

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Over 8.5 (-125). The Ravens and the Steelers have the two easiest schedules in the AFC. So, why aren't the Ravens listed here? Simple. Their win total is 11 while the Steelers' is 8.5. Both could exceed their numbers but for obvious reasons, but it will be easier for the Steelers to do that.

There aren't a lot of intimidating games on the Steelers' schedule besides the Ravens. Sure, the Browns and Bengals will always play hard against the rest of the AFC North. But the Steelers went 3-1 against them last year with Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges at quarterback. They should be in better shape with Ben Roethlisberger returning.

Elsewhere on the Steelers' schedule, games against the Titans, Eagles, Colts, and Bills could be challenging to some degree. But the Steelers should be favored at home more often than not and so long as Roethlisberger can stay healthy, they should have a chance to reach double-digit wins again.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Over 10 (-110). The Bucs have improved their offense greatly this offseason by adding Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to the fold. Will their additions translate to success on the field? Only time will tell.

But the Bucs have a favorable schedule in 2020. They have to take on some talented teams including the Saints (twice), Packers, Chiefs, and Vikings, but their games against the latter three are all at home, as is one of the Saints games. If they can at least go 3-2 in those games, they should have a good chance to eclipse the 10-win mark.

And if they beat the Saints in Week 1 at the Superdome, it's possible that they could go on a bit of an undefeated run to start the season. Their four games after playing the Saints are vs. Panthers, at Broncos, vs. Chargers, and at Bears. Those all are winnable but first things first, Brady will look to dispatch the Saints in the first week of the season.

3. Indianapolis Colts: Over 8.5 (-155). Yeah, the juice on this one isn't that great, but that's because it feels like a shoo-in that the Colts will win at least nine games. They were off to a good start last year before Jacoby Brissett got hurt and regressed. Philip Rivers should help them to find success as a bridge quarterback, especially considering how much better his blocking will be with the Colts compared to the Chargers.

The Colts have a very easy start to the season. They realistically could have a chance to beat their first seven opponents. Their toughest games will be against the Vikings (at home) and the Bears (on the road), but if the Colts offense can click early, the Jaguars, Jets, Browns, Bengals, and Lions are all beatable.

The second half of the year is less kind, including a brutal five-game stretch where they play the Ravens, Titans (twice), Packers, and Texans, but they should be able to squeeze a win or two out of that patch if all goes well.

This bet may be a bit sketchier if the win total goes up to 9, but we'd like it even at that number. The Colts just seem like a team that should earn a Wild Card bid in 2020.

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Under Bets

1. Houston Texans: Under 7.5 (-110). It's hard to find a team with a more brutal start to the season than the Texans. And while Deshaun Watson's presence should help them stay competitive, without DeAndre Hopkins, the team may have more trouble generating plays on offense.

The Texans get to take on the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, and Vikings in the first four weeks. After that, they get a brief respite against the Jacksonville Jaguars before having to face the Titans and Packers, who played in the AFC and NFC Championship Game last season, before their bye week. So, it's possible that the Texans could go 1-6 to start the season.

Things get better for the Texans after their bye, but will the damage already be done? And they still do have to take on the Colts twice, the Patriots, the Titans, and the Bears. So, not all of their games are gimmes. Bill O'Brien has led the Texans back from a deficit before, but the task may be too tall for him this time around. 

2. Detroit Lions: Under 7 (-115). The number of seven for the Lions always felt high even if they were getting back a healthy Matthew Stafford. Their schedule isn't terrible, but it's hard to find close to seven sure-fire wins on there.

In the first half of the season, the Lions have to face the Bears, Packers, Cardinals, Saints, Jaguars, Falcons, Colts, and Vikings. The home game against the Bears should be winnable and so is the road game against the Jaguars. But the rest of the games? They're tossups at best.

And in the second half of the season, the Lions are set to take on the Buccaneers as well as the Bears, Packers, and Vikings again.

There are simply too many quality opponents on the Lions schedule to trust them. And if the team struggles out of the gate, Matt Patricia could find himself on the hot seat which will only create more problems for the team. So, it's best to bet against the Lions in 2020.

3. New England Patriots: Under 9 (-110). It's certainly conceivable that the Patriots could win 9 or 10 games this season. But two factors make it more of a possibility than a likelihood. First, the team has a brutal schedule highlighted by an early-season gauntlet that sees them face the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Francisco 49ers in the first six weeks before playing six of their next eight games on the road. That's not easy for any team to deal with.

Secondly, Jarrett Stidham is in his first year as a starter, and he may have growing pains. And as our own Tom E. Curran pointed out recently, Stidham's growth could be stunted a bit by a lost offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So, even if the team believes that he could be the future of the franchise, trusting him to get this team double-digit wins doesn't seem like a great bet.

So, we'll favor the under for the time being even though betting against Bill Belichick hasn't proven to be a wise decision over the years.

Adam Vinatieri can't retire, because he's all that many of us have left

Adam Vinatieri can't retire, because he's all that many of us have left

Athletes enter our lives as mythical heroes, and those formative connections endure. Many New Englanders under 30, for instance, still feel like awestruck children at the sight of Tom Brady's No. 12. For 40-somethings, there's a reason Larry Bird videos provide comfort with one housebound day bleeding into the next.

As we age, athletes become our contemporaries. The first time one of them hits it big, we experience emotions ranging from, "I'm not a kid anymore," to, "I should probably start doing something with my life."

If you were born in the 1960s, maybe it's Wayne Gretzky. For children of the '70s, it's Ken Griffey Jr. Eighties kids probably expect to watch LeBron James forever. Today's generation loves Jayson Tatum. Their respective careers start with such promise that we can't imagine them getting old, because such a fate will never befall us, either.

Then we push into our 30s and something unsettling happens: the next generation arrives.

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The idols of our youth retire and the replacements who once represented the future now look like us -- a little older, a little slower. With each successive season, more of them fall by the wayside, their departures another way to mark the passage of time.

Instead of reveling in eternal youth, they burn like Roman candles, sparking into bursts of color that sputter to silence. One minute Griffey is going back-to-back with his dad, his backwards cap an iconic symbol of rebellion against a sport's staid culture, the next he's a broken 40-year-old hitting .184 in his farewell season. The man we once called The Kid just turned 50, by the way.

The shocking moment for every sports fan is when there's suddenly no one left. If you were born in 1962, you held on until Jamie Moyer retired in 2012. A year later, children of 1969 winced upon Mariano Rivera calling it quits. Boston fans of a 1977 vintage were blessed to call both Brady and Zdeno Chara their own until last month, and one of the minor tragedies of a 2020 without sports, if it comes to that, is the possibility that we've seen the last of TB12 and Big Z.

Our relationship to sports changes when we're older than the competitors.

I'm willing to bet most fans can name at least one athlete who shares their birth year, if not the exact day (Saints guard Tom Ackerman, baby!), but the personal connection dissolves when you look out on the field/court/ice and realize the hypothetical commonality of potentially shared experience -- "Two years ago we were probably both playing NBA 2K in our dorms!" -- no longer applies.

If this sounds like the lament of a sportswriter locked in his house and confronting his own transition from young to (transmission garbled), there's a point to these maudlin ruminations, I swear.

Last week, Colts head coach Frank Reich provided an update on the status of Adam Vinatieri. The 47-year-old future Hall of Famer is coming off a miserable season mercifully cut short by knee surgery, and he still hasn't decided whether he'll play in 2020.

Vinatieri was born in 1972, the same year that gave us Shaquille O'Neal, Chipper Jones, and Jaromir Jagr, to name three.

Among the many millions of non-famous people born that year is me. The best players of my generation aren't just retired; a handful have already reached their respective Halls of Fame, their careers reduced to highlight clips and so many bolded sports-reference pages. But whether journeymen or All-Stars, their playing days are over. Jason Varitek may as well be Birdie Tebbetts; Drew Bledsoe feels interchangeable with Jim Plunkett. They're all consigned to history.

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But not Vinatieri. For those who grew up playing RBI Baseball, ordering double-double-cheese-cheese-burgers-burgers-please, and running the Cosby Show/Family Ties/Cheers/Night Court gauntlet every Thursday on NBC, Vinatieri is all we've got left. He's the last tenuous link to a version of ourselves that didn't worry about mortgages, raising children, or surviving pandemics. We played pickup basketball without bothering to stretch, drank like ornate fountains, and slept until noon.

Vinatieri debuted in 1996, a little over a year after I graduated college, when people still got most of their news from the paper and the Celtics still played on SportsChannel. He played his first game on Sept. 1 in a loss to the Dolphins. Thirteen days later, I covered my first Red Sox game, a 13-5 loss vs. the White Sox. Harold Baines went 2 for 4, and now he's 61. Chicago's lineup alone featured three future managers: Robin Ventura, Ozzie Guillen, and defending World Series champ Dave Martinez. Warming in the Red Sox bullpen was a reliever named Pat Mahomes -- his much more famous son goes by Patrick and just won his first Super Bowl.

That was nearly 25 years ago, and yet Vinatieri endures. He has spent more seasons in Indianapolis (14) than New England (10), and until 2019, when he missed six extra points and converted a career-low 68 percent of his field goals, he remained a standout.

He made first-team All-Pro at age 42 and converted nearly 93 percent of his kicks at age 43. He remained over 85 percent as recently as 2018. He still managed to nail a 55-yarder last year. His success helped weekend warriors believe they could still run post patterns in the park, maybe without even shredding an Achilles.

But now Vinatieri must decide whether there's anything left in that leg. When he hangs up his cleats, he'll be taking a little piece of a whole bunch of old guys with him. And I believe I speak for us all when I say:

Please don't go. We're not ready.