News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 10, 2013

Colts say Luck will play it safe Sunday

In college, quarterback liked to mix it up a little to get rid of butterflies

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

ANDERSON — As a senior at Stanford, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck enjoyed mixing it up a bit with opposing defenders early in the season.

As first-year offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton recalled Friday, Luck wanted to take – or rather dish out – a few hits in the first one or two games in order to get the butterflies out of his system.

With the Colts slated to begin the 2013 preseason schedule Sunday (1:30 p.m.) with a home game against the Buffalo Bills at Lucas Oil Stadium, Hamilton – who was Luck's collegiate offensive coordinator in 2011 -- promised that Indianapolis' franchise signal caller would be playing it safe.

"When Andrew was in college, I would approach him and ask him a couple days prior to the game. ‘Hey, give me an idea of what plays you’d like to start with’ and he would always say, ‘Hey, early on I want to get hit to knock the butterflies out,' " he remembered Friday morning.

"He would actually do more of the hitting, should I say, if we ran a sprint out or a roll out. You could count on him not throwing the football and just tucking it and trying to run over a defensive back or a linebacker.

“[But] by no means do we employ that strategy at this [National Football League] level.”

If Luck were to play more than one or two full series against the Bills, it would come as a surprise.

While head coach Chuck Pagano and Hamilton haven't decided on just how long most of the team's veterans will play Sunday, protecting Luck is job one.

“We plan on allowing Andrew to go out and get back in the rhythm of playing full-speed football, live football. Understanding that he’s not going to have on a red jersey and giving him an opportunity to go out and lead his teammates and execute the offense," the coordinator voiced.

"That’s Coach Pagano’s decision [how long the quarterback plays]. We’ll see how it goes and we’ll decide on game day."

That was then, this is now – Luck may have liked being more physical as a college player. Not so much at the NFL level. Well, almost not so much.

“Do I need to get hit? I don’t think you need to get hit. I’ll say sometimes it’s nice to get hit once and sort of get that feeling out of the way, ‘OK, it’s football, here we go.’ I guess part of the plan is getting hit. I think in a somewhat demented way we sort of enjoy that,” the Colts quarterback joked Friday.

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, heading into his 14th season with Indianapolis, has had enough pre-season hits.

“No, I think 13 years of hits is enough. I think I know what it feels like,” he said.

A year ago – In his first preseason game as a rookie in 2012, the former No. 1 overall draft pick led Indianapolis to a 38-3 win over the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Luck, who was in the game for 24 offensive snaps, completed 10-of-16 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He ended the game with an impressive 142.6 passer rating.

His first pass of the game went to running back Donald Brown and resulted in a 63-yard scoring play.

More butterflies -- The players aren't the only ones who get excited with the start of preseason games. Coaches do too.

“Yeah everybody gets them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing or coaching, we all have a job to do and we all have responsibilities. There is always butterflies. But once you kick that thing off as a player, you have them but the first time you get hit or you hit somebody, the butterflies are gone and you are in the flow of the game," Pagano said earlier this week.

"And the same thing goes as far as coaching, once you kick the thing off and you get in the flow of things. Obviously having somewhat of a year under my belt, so to speak, I don’t think it will be as bad as it was the first time [last preseason].”

Wayne is approaching Sunday’s meeting with the Bills just like any preseason game.

“It’s business as usual. I think when you go into them any other way, bad things happen. Honestly I take them very serious for the most part. Say for instance you got a guy who’s trying to make a name for himself or trying to make a roster that’s just so happen in the game when I’m in there,” he said.

“So guys like that you got to take serious. I treat it like it’s a normal regular-season game and hopefully we can get in there and get a good drive going and I can get out.”

Offense almost in -- Hamilton said Friday that the majority of his so-called "No-Coast" offense has been installed.

“For the most part, it’s in. We had, of course, the offseason and now training camp to troubleshoot some of the things we wanted to do as a staff," he explained. "Our guys, they’ve been receptive and they’ve done a good job of absorbing a lot of information and then going out and executing at practice. So we’ll see how it goes in a game.”

Live hitting -- The Colts, like most NFL teams, don't do much live hitting during training camp practices.

That's why teams, especially players and coaches on the defensive side of the ball, enjoy the beginning of the preseason schedule.

"I think the best thing that San Francisco did last year, they were a great tackling football team defensively and I think that is what we need to see on the field [Sunday]. We’re not actually going live out here every day. We only had two periods that were a little bit live," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky voiced Friday.

"So I want to see from our defense a great tackling team and even if they catch the ball, yards after catch, we want to make sure we stop that.”

Camera man – Cornerback Cassius Vaughn wore a camera on his helmet on Friday afternoon’s practice session.

Video from Vaughn’s day can be found on Colts.com.

Stats of the day -- Per Bleacher Report NFL analyst Matt Miller, Luck had 108 passes that covered 20 or more yards during his rookie season. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, meanwhile, had 36 total passes that covered the same distance.

Also, Luck threw an interception for every 34 pass completions. Seattle's Russell Wilson had an interception for every 39 pass completions.

Second opinion on Allen, Werner sidelined – Second-year tight end Dwayne Allen (foot) visited another doctor to get a second opinion on his injury.

“Dwayne Allen went for a second opinion. Have not gotten the results back yet. He’s due back in town sometime [Friday] evening. So we’re just waiting on that,” Pagano said after Friday’s practice. “When we have an answer on that, we’ll give it to you.”

Rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, the Colts’ No. 1 draft pick last spring, left Friday morning’s workout early and did not take part in the second practice.

“”Bjoern wasn’t out [at practice Friday]. Didn’t go. Has got a sore knee. Decided to just hold him out, let him rest. But we expect him to play [Sunday against Buffalo],” the coach voiced.

Also sitting out Friday’s afternoon practice were safety LaRon Landry, rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton, rookie center Khaled Holmes, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, cornerback Teddy Williams, rookie fullback Dan Moore, rookie inside linebacker Josh McNary, safety Joe Lefedge, and inside linebacker Mario Harvey.

Allen, Holmes, Thornton, and Freeman have already been ruled out of the Buffalo game. The status of several other players, such as Landry, remain up in the air.

“The other guys are on the mend. And it looks like we’ll get a few guys back [for the game] so it’ll help us depth-wise,” Pagano said. “All those guys, we’re holding out hope. We haven’t ruled any of those other guys out.