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September 10, 2013

Reluctant runner: Colts quarterback will take off with ball when needed, but would much rather let his receivers do the damage

INDIANAPOLIS — Just call him the reluctant running quarterback.

Andrew Luck — now in his second season as the Indianapolis Colts starter — has rushed for six touchdowns, including his 19-yard game-winner against Oakland on Sunday.

Overall, he has rushed for 293 yards in 68 carries over 17 regular-season starts. He has a 4.31-yard rushing average.

One thing is abundantly clear, though. Luck doesn’t go to the line of scrimmage each play and look to take off on a run. And please don’t compare him to read-option quarterbacks like San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick or Washington’s Robert Griffin III. That’s not his thing.

“No, no, absolutely not,” he stressed Monday after a team walk-through.

Still, there are those times when tucking the ball under his right arm is the best thing that Luck can do.

“Situationally, it depends. [But] I want to get the ball out of my hands 99.9 percent of the time,” the former first overall draft pick said.

“We’ve got great receivers on this team. I really think so. We’ve got great tight ends. We’ve got running backs that are hard-nosed and that make guys miss. The ball doesn’t need to be in my hands all the time.”

Sometimes, though, the opportunity presents itself and instincts just take over.

“In certain situations [like what occurred in the win over the Raiders] when it opens it up like that, you do run,” Luck said. “But I would much rather throw the ball. Get it into true athletes’ hands.”

As for that touchdown against Oakland, he prefers to highlight the blocking downfield by his receivers and offensive line rather than his decision to run.

“[It was the] way the middle of the field opened up. They had good coverage. They doubled [wide receiver] Reggie [Wayne],” Luck explained.

“The guy covering [tight end] Coby [Fleener] was tight. And those were sort of my first two reads. It sort of opened up as I was stepping up. And [wide receiver] Darrius [Heyward-Bey] made a great block.”

So if he gets another chance to take off with the football, what’s he going to do?

“I’ve always been taught going back to college, even high school, that if you can get a first down with your legs as a quarterback, that could be a good thing,” Luck said.

“It could be somewhat demoralizing for a defense in a sense. And if you can break a tackle or maybe sidestep something and get the ball out to a receiver, it makes a difference.”

n Pagano on Luck running — During training camp, head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton were somewhat adamant that they would prefer Luck stay in the pocket and leave the job of carrying the football to the team’s three running backs.

But Pagano and Hamilton are realists too. They know that good things usually happen when their quarterback has the ball in his hands. And Pagano, as a former defensive coordinator, understands what it does to a defense to have to account for a quarterback who can run.

It’s safe to say that he appreciates Luck’s abilities to make people miss.

“It’s pretty good,” the Colts coach said Monday. “You can ask Oakland. But the guy is a pro-style, drop-back pocket passer. He’s got all the arm talent in the world. All the smarts. All the instincts. All that stuff.

“But if things open up and people play tight coverage on you and there’s nowhere to go with the ball, instinctively that’s what you’re going to do. And he’s athletic enough, he’s big enough and he’s strong enough to do exactly what he did [Sunday]. But we’re not running read option with him. We don’t have designed quarterback runs for Andrew.”

And, yes, the Colts do instruct Luck that if he does decide to run with the ball, get the first down and then slide or get out of bounds. Pagano, though, understands that there will be times — during the heat of a game — those instructions are momentarily forgotten.

“When you’re playing football, you’re not thinking. It’s instincts. Instincts take over. He’s an instinctive football player. Certainly we knew coming out of college that he did it a heck of a lot more than he’s doing it at this level. He understands why he can’t do it at this level. He’s a smart guy,” the Colts coach added.

“He got out of some stuff [against the Raiders]. They had him dead to rights one time. But somehow, some way, he squeaked out of there and ran for a first down. It was unbelievable how he did it. But again, that’s instincts taking over. We’re going to tell you when you get close to the sidelines, throw it away, run out of bounds, slide. All those things. We talk to him daily about it.”

n Injury update — Tight end Dwayne Allen suffered a hip injury in the third quarter of the Oakland game. He stayed in for several plays after he was hurt before going to the sidelines for the rest of the game.

He was hurt after falling awkwardly while attempting to make a catch. Allen, who had missed most of training camp and all of the preseason as he recovered from a foot injury, caught a 20-yard touchdown pass against the Raiders in the second quarter.

Pagano said Monday that Allen’s magnetic resonance imaging test came back negative, which is good news. The second-year tight end from Clemson will undergo treatment today and may be able to practice on Wednesday. The coach remains hopeful that Allen will be able to start this week’s home game with Miami (1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium).

Inside linebacker Pat Angerer, meanwhile, is continuing to undergo the NFL-mandated concussion protocols. His status for the Dolphins game remains unresolved.

Inside linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle) and wide receiver David Reed (concussion/quad) may be cleared to resume practicing this week.

n Postgame notes — Luck has thrown 128 consecutive passes, dating back to last season, without an interception. That ties him for the 11th-longest streak in franchise history. His last interception occurred in the first half of the Colts’ Dec. 9 game with Tennessee.

The second-year signal caller has registered eight fourth-quarter comebacks, which is the most by a quarterback in his first 17 regular-season games since 1970. Also, he has thrown at least one touchdown pass in eight consecutive regular-season games, dating back to Nov. 18 against New England.

Antoine Bethea started his 81st consecutive game for the Colts, which ranks him first among active NFL safeties. Bethea’s game-saving interception against the Raiders was his first pick since Dec. 19, 2010, in a win over Jacksonville.

Wayne had 96 yards receiving in the Raiders game, giving him 13,159 career receiving yards. That puts him into the 13th spot all time, passing former Seattle wide receiver Steve Largent in the process. The 13-year veteran has had at least one catch in 113 regular-season games.

 

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