By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
This week marks another NFL first for Andrew Luck — a bye.
And for one of the few times in his brief career, the rookie quarterback seemed a bit unsure about what exactly he should do.
“I don’t think I’ve earned the right to take five days completely off,” he said midweek at the Indianapolis Colts’ practice facility. “I’ll make sure to relax a little. In talking to (quarterbacks coach) Clyde (Christensen) and (backup quarterback) Drew (Stanton), you realize it is a long season and you want to make sure you are fresh throughout the whole thing.”
Reports were Luck headed to Morgantown, W. Va., for the weekend where he could visit his family — including his father, Oliver, the athletic director at West Virginia University.
The Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers drew the earliest possible bye this year, but there are benefits.
Luck missed almost all of the team’s offseason work while he was finishing his degree in architectural design at Stanford. As a result, he’s been playing catchup since joining the team full-time in June.
This week gives Luck, and the rest of the Colts, a rare chance to breathe.
“Some guys you want to get in their books,” Christensen said. “I just really think he needs to get away from it and relax and let down for a second. It has been a long haul from training camp, and we’ve got a grind ahead of us. Those 13 weeks in a row will be a long haul so the best thing he can do is get away from me and football and just rest and relax and let his brain shut down and do something fun for a couple days, and then we’ll go back to work on Monday.”
Luck’s first three professional starts have drawn mixed results.
He led a 45-yard drive to set up Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard, game-winning field goal in Week 2 against Minnesota. And he was named the Pepsi MAX NFL Rookie of the Week after throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns last week against Jacksonville.
But Indianapolis has just one win, and the sting from the 22-17 upset loss to the Jaguars still hasn’t completely worn off.
“Obviously we want to be sitting here 3-0,” Luck said. “I realize that is not the case. 2-1 would be better than 1-2. I think we are getting better. Every bit of game experience helps and realize too that you can’t lose focus for a quarter-and-a-half in a game. Take those as learning experiences and hopefully bounce back next week.”
Luck’s individual numbers have been good and bad.
He has 846 passing yards and is averaging a solid 282 per game. He’s also thrown five touchdown passes and looks like a veteran running the team’s two-minute drill.
But he’s already thrown 122 passes (an average of more than 40 per game) and completed just 53.3 percent. His four interceptions are inflated by a three-pick game in the opener at Chicago, but Luck will be the first to admit he’s turned the ball over too often.
The key lies in learning from the mistakes and making sure not to repeat the same errors in the future.
In that regard, Luck has earned high marks across the board.
“He’s got big enough shoulders to handle the situation that he’s in right now,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s not one to bemoan or let it linger.”
There’s no time for that, anyway.
Indianapolis returns from the bye with an Oct. 7 home game against the Green Bay Packers, then it’s a road trip to meet the New York Jets.
If the offense hasn’t solved its second-half struggles by then, the Colts will be staring at a 1-4 start and thoughts quickly will shift from darkhorse playoff contention to improving draft position.
The rookie quarterback is thinking none of these thoughts.
He’s aware of the mistakes he’s made — citing a third-down opportunity he threw behind receiver Donnie Avery against Jacksonville last week as a specific example — but he’s excited about the chance to make up for them.
If Luck has shown anything in his early days in Indianapolis, it’s uncanny resiliency.
He’s taken accountability for his role in the Colts’ 1-2 start, and his coaches don’t believe any of the mistakes will haunt Luck into next weekend.
“He’s not a guy that’s going to beat himself up and you look in two weeks for a bad game coming up,” Pagano said. “That’s just not Andrew’s mentality. That’s not in his DNA.”