By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck remained behind Thursday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, taking extra reps with some of his wide receivers after the Indianapolis Colts' final practice of a three-day mini-camp had concluded.
Luck dropped back and threw high-arcing passes into the end zone, and most often either second-year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton or free-agent addition Darrius Heyward-Bey ran underneath them and made the catch.
Head coach Chuck Pagano was talking with the media at the other end of the field while this was going on, and he was asked about his quarterback's perceived increase in comfort and command during his second preseason.
Pagano motioned toward the activity far behind him and said Luck remains a leader by example.
"He's going to lead by his work ethic," Pagano said. "Then when he has to say something, it's like E.F. Hutton, when he speaks, they listen. So he's going to do well in that role."
Luck is ahead of many of his teammates because he played his senior season in new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's system at Stanford. And he already had a pretty good starting point.
His peers voted him as the 23rd-best player in the NFL during NFL Network's annual Top 100 Players poll, and he set a rookie record with 4,374 passing yards and tied a league record with seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime last season. When the Colts broke at the end of the 2012 season, however, Luck said he wanted to work on his deep ball.
He threw three long touchdown passes during Wednesday's open practice at Lucas Oil Stadium, and he looked particularly good on a 68-yard touchdown throw to Hilton that dropped right over the receiver's shoulder at about the 2-yard line.
But, in typical Luck fashion, he's still focused on what he needs to improve.
"I do feel like I've made some strides," he said. "I'm not where I want to be. But it's something I can work on through this off time and get with the receivers on throwing to stationary targets. There's a good plan that (quarterbacks coach) Clyde (Christensen) and Pep have put together to get good at that."
Luck speaks of the offense overall in similar terms.
The Colts won't practice formally again until they report to training camp at Anderson University on July 27. He likes the progress the team made in mini-camp this week.
"I thought we improved," Luck said. "That's the name of the game. We're nowhere near perfect. I would hope we're not near perfect at this point. I think it was great to have the whole team together, to start to see some of the pieces come into place and to see guys compete. I'm happy to get this session done and have the break and really look forward to training camp now."
WAYNE TOPS LIST: 34-year-old wide receiver Reggie Wayne is the Colts' highest ranking player on NFL Network's Top 100 Players list at No. 21.
Entering his 13th season in the league, Wayne is surrounded by an offense with many players that are at least eight years his junior.
And though he says the team has a great locker room, the generation gap is evident at times.
"I hear the conversations," Wayne said. "It baffles me sometimes. I wonder if I was talking about those same things when I was their age. I let them know what's up, man. I'm an old dog, but I'm a dog that everybody wants."
NEW TRICKS: Punter Pat McAfee was the star of a fake field goal attempt late in Thursday's practice.
Serving as the holder, he received the snap, picked up the football and rolled out to his left. Once he broke into the open, McAfee fired a line drive into the arms of offensive lineman Joe Reitz for a touchdown.
The play drew a chuckle from Luck in the postpractice locker room.
"It could use some work," he said of McAfee's arm. "He's got a heck of an arm. He's an athlete. As a good West Virginia Mountaineer, you'd expect that of him I guess."
Luck's father, Oliver, was a star quarterback at West Virginia and is currently the school's athletic director.
IJALANA UPDATE: 2011 second-round pick Ben Ijalana has seen both of his NFL seasons cut short by knee injuries.
He appeared in just four games during his rookie season before being placed on injured reserve, and he was hurt on the first day of training camp last summer.
Ijalana has been rehabbing throughout the offseason and has been unable to work into the mix on the offensive line. But Pagano said that doesn't mean he's been forgotten.
"Poor kid's just been snake-bitten," he said. "He's got talent, he's big and he's athletic. We know all the measurables. He's been snake-bitten. He's just got to stay healthy. Nobody's faced more adversity than Ben, and he's handled it like a pro and like a champ. He's come back, and he's kept that axe swinging. As long as you don't drop that axe and you keep that axe going, that tree will eventually fall."
WELCOME, BRADSHAW: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is the most recent addition to the roster, signing with the Colts on Tuesday.
On Thursday, general manager Ryan Grigson shared some of the attributes he saw in the 27-year-old that made him think he'd look good representing the horseshoe.
"Just his style, his production since he's been in this league," Grigson said. "I think he's a great fit for this offense. The thing about him is he's just turning 27. He's still a young man. He's got, we feel, plenty of tread left on the tires. At the end of the day, he's just a nice fit in terms of his demeanor and the way he approaches football and life."