Andrew Luck says that he’s ready to face the Chicago Bears’ vaunted defense.
Of course, the Indianapolis Colts’ rookie quarterback understands that there’s a big difference between being ready to play and actually playing well. But that’s his objective heading into Sunday’s regular-season opener at Solider Field (1 p.m., CBS Sports).
“Excited. Obviously going up against a great team, great defense. It will be a great measuring stick I think for us. Just very excited to get going,” Luck said before the start of Wednesday’s practice.
The Colts’ No. 1 draft pick knows that the tempo and overall speed of the game will pick up considerably with the regular-season underway. But Luck had a strong showing over the course of four preseason games, improvement which he hopes will continue this week.
“Having the preseason games and sort of getting back there and feeling live bullets standing in the pocket, and going through that was helpful. [I’ve been] trying to think about comparing it to freshman year in college where you don’t get to scrimmage anybody else, you don’t get to play anybody else,” he pointed out.
“I’ll take these next couple practices [this week] very seriously. I think those will help prepare [me] and hopefully I’ll be ready to go.”
As a rookie in the National Football League, particularly as a first-year starting quarterback in the league, Luck is quite aware that there will be more than a few bumps and bruises along the way. After all, his predecessor with the Colts — Peyton Manning — threw 28 interceptions en route to a 3-13 season in 1998. Manning also had 26 touchdown passes that season.
“I hope I don’t have to [experience a lot of growing pains]. But yeah. I think it’s part of growing up. Part of being a rookie is, I guess, coming up to situations that you haven’t seen before,” Luck said. “I’ve got great guys to rely on all around this locker room. Just try to get to the basics when things like that happen and just run the offense.”
So what’s been the biggest transition from being the starting quarterback at Stanford to, now, being the No. 1 starter for the Colts?
“I think so far it’s been just the breadth of [pass] protections. The different types of protections. Drop back, play-action, the nakeds, the boots,” he voiced. “We didn’t have that many in college and now I’m like, ‘Okay this is a man protection, this picks up this type of blitz, this is scat, this is a slide protection.’ That’s sort of been the biggest challenge.”
And what’s it like preparing to face a defense with so many recognizable names such as middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, defensive end Julius Pepper and outside linebacker Lance Briggs?
“I think at first when you turn the film on, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, that is Julius Peppers, standing up there.’ But you have to get that out of your system and you can’t go out there and stare in awe of those guys,” Luck said.
“Obviously, you watch them growing up but you’re not trying to get autographs from them, you’re trying to win a game. So it’ll be fun and I’m looking forward to it.”
• Pagano on Luck — Prior to assuming the title as the Colts’ first-year head coach, Chuck Pagano was the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator.
Pagano was asked Wednesday how, as a coordinator, would he approach facing a rookie quarterback who is playing in his first-ever NFL game. He was also asked if Indianapolis was prepared for what Luck might see his first time out.
“I think going in you’d like to say, ‘Ok, try to make him work. Make him execute. See how far along he is with the learning curve, so to speak.’ They’ve got enough on tape to where they’ve got to make that decision as far as looking at Andrew and where he’s at compared to most rookies,” he said.
“So I think generally speaking you would say, ‘Ok look, we’ve got us a rookie quarterback, let’s get after him.’ Some teams, that’s their [motivation], some teams that’s not their [motivation]. If they choose to rush with four guys, that’s fine. If they want to bring everybody, then we’ll be prepared for it.”
Whatever Chicago coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli may try to come up with in order to confuse Luck, Pagano believes his quarterback will be up to the challenge.
“There will be butterflies, I’m sure. He’ll be anxious just like everybody else. [Ravens outside linebacker Terrell] Suggs threw up before every game, ten years in. That’s just how competitive guys are. Once he gets out there and he gets rolling, it’ll be business as usual for [Luck],” he said.
“You’ve seen it year-in and year-out at every level especially in the NFL. They’re going to give us something that we haven’t seen. They may save something for the second half that we haven’t seen. So you just kind of pick yourself up, make the corrections on the sideline and move forward.”
It’s safe to say, though, that Pagano has a lot of faith and confidence in his young quarterback.
“The kid expects a lot from himself, so he would be the first one to tell you that he expects high standards. Obviously he expects to play well. He knows his teammates are expecting him to do that. He also understands that there’s going to be mistakes just like any other position out there,” the Colts coach said.
“He’s no different than some of the other guys that are here. We’ve got a ton of youth out there, obviously, that are going to make mistakes. Just make them full speed, go on to the next play and forget it.”
• Injury update — The first official game-week injury report for the Colts was released late Wednesday afternoon.
Inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) is out indefinitely. He has not practiced since he was hurt against St. Louis in the team’s first preseason game. Offensive guard Joe Reitz (knee) also didn’t practice on Wednesday. Reitz was inadvertently kicked in the knee during practice last week.
Running back Delone Carter (chest/ribs) and rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) both saw limited work Wednesday.
Running back Mewelde Moore (chest/ribs), wide receiver Austin Collie (head/concussion), cornerback Jerraud Powers (knee) and defensive end Cory Redding (knee) all fully participated in Wednesday’s workout.
Pagano said that Collie is still slated to start Sunday against the Bears. Prior to returning to practice on Monday, he had missed the final two preseason games.