News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 5, 2012

Luck lookin’ good

Rookie QB pleased with progress after first week of camp

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

ANDERSON — One week into training camp with the Indianapolis Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has met, or exceeded, most expectations.

That’s not exactly a surprise. Luck, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 National Football League draft, has been impressive across the board. His grasp of the Colts’ offensive playbook, along with his on-field awareness, tops the list. But there is much more to the former Stanford signal caller.

Accuracy for one. Over the past week — practices Sunday through Saturday — Luck has completed 122-of-162 passes (that’s a .753 completion percentage) for seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Yes, those stats have been compiled in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 practice situations. And, yes, he hasn’t faced a full-speed pass rush just yet.

One week into camp and pretty much the entire offensive playbook has already been installed. There hasn’t been any information overload on Luck’s part yet. He’s been able to pick up things up quickly and he’s been able to put that information to good use. Few mental errors. Even fewer physical mistakes.

But the two-time Heisman Trophy runnerup (2010, 2011) isn’t getting ahead of himself. The son of an NFL quarterback, he knows that there’s still plenty of work to do.

“Just because everything is installed doesn’t mean it’s all down pat, in an airtight lock. It’ll be nice to be able to go back and say OK we’ve run this play a couple of times now, now let’s really get a good feel for it,” Luck said after Saturday’s morning practice.

Despite all the hoopla and attention that comes with being the first pick of the draft, he’s still a rookie who is about a week away from playing in his first NFL preseason game.

“I feel like a rookie, especially when I have to sing in front of all the guys. I try and approach everyday, especially with the mental attributes and say, ‘OK, I’m going to handle mentally everything that’s thrown my way.’ I feel like a scrub rookie everyday so far,” Luck voiced, adding that he’s getting a good handle on the offense.

“On the right track, definitely on the right track. Nowhere near 100 percent. I don’t know if it’ll ever be 100 percent, but on the right track.”

• Defense helps — Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has been doing his best to make sure that Luck is well-prepared to face an NFL defense.

Instead of throwing up vanilla coverages during training camp pass drills, Manusky has been mixing in various real-game blitz packages and looks up front.

“It’s awesome to sort of have the kitchen sink thrown at you, different blitzes and different looks, because it does make a difference,” the Colts’ quarterback said.

“I think to be able to see things unfold and go in the meeting room afterward and say, ‘OK let’s dissect this blitz, what are they doing here and why’ and great discussion starters and it’s great practice when you play the defenses that coach [Chuck] Pagano’s been around and coach Manusky.”

To take it a few steps further, Luck often checks with a few of the Colts’ defensive players in an effort to find out if he’s tipping plays off with his mannerisms or technique.

“Especially with an established player, [free safety] Antoine [Bethea] or [strong safety Tom Zbikowski] or [cornerback] Jerraud [Powers] back there, that have seen quarterbacks play,” he explained.

“It’s not everyday I’m going to go up and say, ‘Hey what do you think of this?’ But just if I catch them somewhere walking [up to the line of scrimmage] I’ll ask them if I’ve been tipping anything off.”

• Pagano, Arians impressed — One week does not make an NFL career. The Colts’ coaching staff has been quick to point that out when discussing Luck’s learning curve so far.

Still, they really like what they’ve seen so far.

“You love to see the progress that [he] is making. He’s steadily getting better each and every day. He’s done it from day one until now. Some of the throws that he makes, I’m sure you sit back and they are jaw droppers. Some of them and you just go ‘Wow.’ I sit back from my vantage point now [behind the offense] and some of them are amazing,” Pagano voiced last week.

“He’s got such great pocket presence. He’s building chemistry with every one of those guys out there. He’s spreading the wealth. He keeps his eyes down the field. He was sliding the pocket so he’s doing a nice job, and the offensive line, everybody else is doing a great job protecting him.”

Earlier in the week, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians — who has worked with the likes of Peyton Manning, Tim Couch and Ben Roethlisberger — had raved about Luck’s potential.

“It’s just ‘wow’ every day. I’ve never been around a guy who can learn that fast. I’ve been around guys who are extremely smart, worked extremely hard at it, but he just gets it. It’s kind of scary that he can. I have to watch that he and I don’t get ahead of everybody else, because his learning curve is so quick,” Arians said.

“Those young receivers, young tight ends, he’ll leave them in the dust. And I’ll leave them in the dust because I have a way of doing that myself with the quarterback. So we really have to guard that we don’t get in too much, too quickly and try to play at his speed.”

• Olympic connection — The sister-in-law of Colts defensive end Fili Moala, Tumua Anae, is the goalkeeper for the United States Olympic women’s water polo team.

Moala, meanwhile, admits that he can tread water and swim in a straight line. That’s the extent of his aquatic activities.

• Injury list — Sitting out Saturday afternoon’s practice were defensive end Cory Redding (rest), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (rest), cornerback Chris Rucker (flu-like symptoms), cornerback Justin King (hip flexor), rookie cornerback Buddy Jackson, rookie wide receiver Griff Whalen (foot), rookie offensive guard Justin Anderson (foot), rookie outside linebacker Tim Fugger (sports hernia) and rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman (knee).

Pagano said that Rucker has been suffering from a severe sore throat for several days. “We’re going to do some tests on him. We’re going to take him to the doctor and actually find out what it is because he’s had it for some time now and has been toughening it out,” the Colts coach said.

Having Mathis and Redding watching the workout was just precautionary.

“As you get into camp, four or five days in, there’s a lot of soft tissue-type injuries. So we wanted to just hold them back and get them a day,” Pagano noted. “They’re getting up there a little bit [in age] so we just held them and they should be back ready to go [today].”

• Pagano’s father in attendance — Sam Pagano, a retired Colorado high school football coach, was at Saturday afternoon’s practice.

“It’s special. It’s a special deal. It’s like me growing up watching him all those years. When I grew up on the sidelines and watching him run the show for so long. All the things you learn along the way, I learned at a very young age. Having the opportunity to grow up in what I think is the No. 1 team sport in the entire world,” Chuck Pagano said of his dad’s visit.

“Football is a great, great team sport. And I was fortunate because of my dad to have the opportunity to grow up in the lockerroom, be around the guys, be around the coaches and watch them work. So it was a special deal.”

Any words of wisdom from the 72-year-old award-winning coach?

“Don’t mess it up,” the younger Pagano said with a laugh.

• Stormy weather Saturday — The workout was stopped midway through a planned two-and-a-half-hour session due to thunderstorms that rolled through Madison County.

“With the weather as it was, there was a front coming in. Player safety is utmost importance. We saw the [weather] cell. [Athletic trainer] Dave Hammer and our crew do a great job. They were all over it,” Pagano said.

“They saw the [storm] cell coming. It was 10 minutes away. We saw the lightning strike going, so we’re not going to jeopardize anybody’s safety or anybody’s health to get the work done.”

After working on goal-line and short-yardage situations, the Colts finished up their practice indoors. There is no scheduled practice this morning, so work resumes with an afternoon session at 1:50.