News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 14, 2012

It's a job, not a reunion, Luck says

Tom James
The Tribune-Star

INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck made one thing clear this week.

He doesn’t regard Sunday’s game at Reliant Stadium with the Houston Texans as a chance to go back to his home town and talk about old times.

It’s all about taking care of business for Luck, who attended Stratford High School in Houston. His father, Oliver Luck, was a former backup quarterback for the Houston Oilers.

“My folks don’t live down there anymore but my grandparents live there. My mom’s family is from Houston so I’ve got a lot of cousins, aunts, uncles that live down there. [But] it’s a football game,” Luck voiced.

“We are there for less than 48 hours and I go back in the off season. I’ve been back to see family, so I’m not trying to cram too many visits in.”

The Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback is more concerned about facing an 11-2 Texans team that is on the verge of capturing a second straight AFC South title.

Indianapolis, meanwhile, is on the cusp of earning a berth in the AFC playoffs as a wild-card participant.

The Colts still have an outside shot of winning the division crown if they were to win their final three regular-season games.

“[Sunday’s game is] a chance to solidify a playoff spot. Obviously the division is not sewn up completely from what I understand,” Luck said.

“And [the game is] against, from our perspective, one of the premier teams in the AFC. We are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

That being said, being back in Houston with the Colts is sure to bring back a lot of memories. Luck said that he was an Oilers fan growing up — since his dad played for the team — but that loyalty as a fan didn’t automatically go to the Texans when that franchise began in 2002.

“We tried to go a couple of times a year [for games]. I know they tried to reach out to the former Oilers who lived in the area so my dad would go a couple of times a year and bring me along,” Luck recalled. “You grow up a fan. Not a fervent fan I’d say. I was an Oilers guy and I guess it’s hard when they moved to Tennessee. Loved the stadium. I was very impressed by the organization.”

He hasn’t played a game at Reliant Stadium since his junior year of high school during the state playoffs.

“We lost in the third round of the playoffs, so not a lot of good memories there,” Luck said.

I I I

n High on McAfee — Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has high praise for punter Pat McAfee, who may be having the best season of his four-year NFL career. He is averaging 48.8 yards on 56 punts with 18 downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

“He’s done it over and over this year. We’ve got some turnovers out of it for big plays. He’s a Pro Bowler. I don’t know if he’ll get voted in but he’s a Pro Bowler,” Arians said.

“He’s always been a boomer but to be able to boom it and directionally kick it, that is a great, tough job. He’s handling it and getting better and better at it.”

n Arians not into all stats — The veteran Colts assistant coach doesn’t get all caught up in the various quarterback rankings, especially as it pertains to Luck.

“I really don’t get caught up in that one. I look at his last two games and in the red zone. He’s 100 percent in the red zone, five-for-five. His third-down efficiency in the last seven or eight weeks, he’s been outstanding,” he said.

“So situational football is where quarterbacks win games more than anything else.”

n Little Edge — Arians has been a big booster of rookie running back Vick Ballard ever since the former Mississippi State standout participated in his first practice with the Colts. That hasn’t changed.

Ballard leads the team in rushing with 562 yards on 146 carries and has rushed for one TD this season.

“He’s powerful. He’s a poor man’s Edge [Edgerrin James]. He’s bowlegged like Edge and he’s about the same size and tough to bring down,” the veteran assistant said.

“He’s quick, he’s elusive, doesn’t have the great, great speed but he can make the first guy miss and he’s going to make a lot of yards because he makes people miss. He’s got a great future. [He has to] stay healthy.”

n Injury list — Sitting out Thursday’s practice were running back Delone Carter (ankle), inside linebacker Kavell Conner (hamstring), offensive tackle Winston Justice (biceps), center Samson Satele (ankle) and safety Tom Zbikowski (knee).

Wide receiver Donnie Avery (ribs) returned for full work after seeing limited practice on Wednesday. Tight end Coby Fleener (ankle), outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest), quarterback Andrew Luck (knee), and offensive guard Joe Reitz (head) all saw full practice.

Outside linebacker Robert Mathis was given the day off to rest old injuries.