By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
As wide receiver Reggie Wayne walked out onto the practice field Tuesday afternoon, he spotted cornerback Jerraud Powers and felt the need to share.
“J-Pow,” Wayne yelled at his Indianapolis Colts teammate, “everybody’s here to see my new QB.”
With that, Wayne turned to his right and made a sweeping gesture with his hand to encompass the mass of media stationed just outside the team’s West 56th Street headquarters.
About an hour earlier, much of that mob had surrounded rookie quarterback Andrew Luck’s locker — throwing rapid-fire questions at the man charged with replacing Peyton Manning.
The media throng seemed far better suited for a playoff game than a mid-summer minicamp practice, which made one reporter’s query about whether Luck understood that he’d become the face of this franchise seem a bit redundant.
“I think I have to earn the ‘face of the franchise’ stuff,” Luck said, ignoring the obvious signs to the contrary. “I don’t approach anything like that. I try to come in here and learn as much as I can, do my best job so I can help these guys, these veterans, all the guys in here get back to the playoffs, get back to being a great team and win championships. I just try to go about my job and not get too caught up in anything else.”
It’s a noble goal and one that’s sure to be tested during this remodeling season in Indianapolis.
After finally completing his classwork at Stanford last week — he’ll walk during graduation ceremonies back in California on Sunday — Luck joined a pair of full-squad practices Tuesday for the first time as a pro.
He completed 15 of 16 pass attempts during 11-on-11 drills in the morning walkthrough, with the one incompletion coming on a drop by rookie tight end Dwayne Allen. And he followed that performance with a 25-for-42 showing in the two-plus hour afternoon practice that was played at a much higher pace.
Luck was not infallible.
He had a miscommunication on a pass pattern with Wayne that led to a throw that landed in cornerback Kevin Thomas’ hands before wiggling free and falling harmlessly to the ground. He also put too much air under a deep pass intended for Wayne over the middle that was saved from being intercepted only by safety Tom Zbikowski’s collision with the ground.
But he also had moments of brilliance, including a laser-like strike on third down deep over the middle to Austin Collie and another deep completion to Collie on an out pattern near the sideline.
Luck said he’ll rely on veteran teammates such as Collie and Wayne, and 13 of his 25 completions in the afternoon session went to those two receivers.
“They’ve obviously been there and done that,” Luck said. “To get any snippet of advice or how a quarterback in the past did it or how they’ve seen other guys do it will be a big part of sort of a learning curve. And why not take advantage of resources around you when you have a Pro Bowl wide receiver three lockers down?”
His throws and command of the offense were impressive, but head coach Chuck Pagano said Luck’s best attribute isn’t visible.
“Like we have said all along, he is off the charts as far as football IQ,” Pagano said. “Coming back out here on Monday, we had a little session with the rookies, which is legal under the guidelines of the new CBA. He has not missed a beat.”
Luck spent three days in early May working with some of his teammates in a rookie minicamp. After that, he was sent back to Stanford with an iPad loaded with the Colts’ playbook and a head full of concepts and new terminology.
He admitted Tuesday it was hard to get motivated to go to classes on weekday mornings, and part of his mind never really left Indianapolis.
Wide receiver Griff Whalen was Luck’s roommate at Stanford, and he doesn’t expect it will take long for his quarterback to catch up to the pro game.
“He picked up Stanford’s playbook so quick, which was pretty close to this one complexity-wise,” Whalen said. “So I think he’ll be ready to go pretty quickly, especially how long he’s had to look over it so far.”
Tight end Coby Fleener has seen it all before at Stanford, and he said Luck’s near immediate grasp of the offense comes as no suprise.
“He is one of the quickest learners I’ve ever met,” Fleener said. “He’s taught me a lot already. He’s just a brilliant kid.”