News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 8, 2012

Luck feels he’s ready for preseason

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

ANDERSON — Andrew Luck thinks he’s ready to play in his first NFL preseason game.

After 10 days of training camp — nine total practices — the Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback will suit up against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. But the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick knows that he’s got plenty of work to do before the Colts face off against the Chicago Bears in the regular-season opener on Sept. 9.

“I can’t believe that it’s [first preseason game] so close. I really haven’t thought about it too much. I’m still sort of still in the practice by practice mentality, the training camp mentality. But [playing in his first game with the Colts] will be a lot of fun,” Luck said after Tuesday’s morning practice.

Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians had said Monday that he wasn’t sure just how long the Colts’ first-team offense will play against St. Louis. His No. 1 quarterback agreed.

“I have not talked to coach [Chuck] Pagano or coach Arians about it. So whatever they decide I’ll just go with the flow,” Luck voiced, adding that he’s not going to lobby for more playing time. At least publicly.

“No, [the Colts’ coaching staff] know a lot more about football than I do.”

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n Hopes for the Rams game — Playing time is one thing. Having control over what happens on the field is something else.

“Well you know hopefully, as an offense, we take care of the football, move the ball up and down, no penalties, no mistakes and put points on the board,” Luck stated, admitting that he’s eager but not nervous heading into Sunday’s game.

“I’m more worried about [Tuesday night’s] practice than a preseason game right now. But when the time comes, I’m sure I’ll have a little nerves as well.”

How nervous?

“I’ll be nervous. I think I’ll have some butterflies,” he said. “That’s happened throughout high school and college, so I assume it’ll be the same at this stage. I think it’s sort of become a part of playing. I think, it’s not to say you get nerves and you get out there and it all calms down, but to me at least, in my sight it’s a little healthy to be nervous before a game.

“I just sort of focus on what you do, what do you need to control. Which is not to say you know I’m nervous, freaking out, bugging out, but just having a little butterflies, have that feeling in your stomach is what I’m talking about. But I just focus on football.”

n Mathis, defense ready to show off — While Luck, the rookie, is trying to maintain a calm demeanor heading into Sunday’s game with St. Louis, veteran defensive end turned outside linebacker Robert Mathis can’t wait to face off against the Rams.

“[The game] is very important. It’s not just a first preseason game. It’s a first stepping stone to what we’re trying to get accomplished [on defense], and that’s to go as far as we want to go. Hopefully, this Sunday we’ll take a step in the right direction,” Mathis voiced.

“Coach [Pagano] said we have ten home games this year, two preseason and eight regular. And we’re trying to win them all. Whatever you want to call it, we come to play. Apparently we have a lot to prove.”

n Interception reaction — Since moving from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker, questions have been raised as to whether Mathis and Dwight Freeney can make a smooth transition. One of their new responsibilities includes standing up — instead of getting into their normal three-point stance — and dropping back into pass coverage against a running back or tight end.

The ability to play pass defense for both veteran defensive linemen is not easy to learn, especially for two players who are in the latter stages of their NFL careers. Over the past week of training-camp practices, Mathis has been up more than Freeney.

Both are making the transition, though. In fact, Mathis recorded a nice interception off backup quarterback Drew Stanton during a coverage drill over the weekend. He was covering rookie tight end Coby Fleener on the play, walling him off and turned his head around in time to make to clean interception.

“It felt great. It took them a long time, but you know, they said I got hands now,” Mathis laughed. “[The transition to linebacker is] better than expected. [I] came in with an open mind and just being an empty vessel just trying to be filled up. It’s working, but it’s still a work in progress.

“It feels good. I wouldn’t say comfortable right now because it’s still a whole different world. It feels pretty good because I’m learning what I’m doing now.”