His unshaven “Neard” is starting to grow back. Much like this juncture of the offseason, the neck beard is a work in progress.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck sounded refreshed and ready to get back to NFL business when he spoke Wednesday during a break from offseason training activities. He called the eight-week routine “fun.”
The three-time Pro Bowl passer sounded excited about his new receiving corps, and he should be. The additions of Andre Johnson and Duron Carter to T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief could be the most talented he’s had, with all due respect to the the departed Reggie Wayne.
Luck was asked about his former teammate, whose nearby corner lockers have remained empty.
“Yeah, it’s always tough to lose a guy like Reggie Wayne,” he said of the 14-year star, who was not re-signed. “He’s Reggie Wayne. You learn quickly in the NFL it’s a business and this happens. Every year guys leave teams, guys don’t come back, whatever the story is. You guys know how I feel about Reggie. I love him to death. What he did for me, amazing, but we have to move on.”
A self-professed student of the game, Luck looks at this time of year like he’s starting again from square one. He analyzes everything piece by piece, from the fundamental aspects of the offense to the complicated components.
After passing for a career-high 40 touchdowns last season, one of Luck’s goals is as it’s always been, to cut down on interceptions and turnovers, a “no-brainer,” as he called it. He had 16 interceptions and a career-worst 13 fumbles, six of them lost.
Sometimes, Luck tries to do too much, and he’s the first to admit it.
“I think personally just cutting down on some decisions, whether leaving the pocket to throw it away as opposed to trying to force it in there and a tipped ball, two hands on the ball, things of that nature,” he said of the turnovers. “So things that you can control that I’ll work on in the offseason and in practice to control that.”
“Incredibly excited,” the quarterback said of his initial reaction to the Gore signing. “A lot of admiration for how he plays the game of football. We were 20 minutes up the road at Stanford when I was a freshman through senior year, so you watch a lot of the Niners games. You talk about a tough guy, a tough runner, a tough blocker and a guy you can tell that does things for his teammates and is a team-first guy. Incredibly excited to have him here.”
He had an equally ecstatic reaction to the signing of Johnson, the Houston Texans’ all-time leading receiver. Luck grew up in Houston and played his high school football there. But he was watching Johnson before that.
“I said, ‘Wow, Andre, sweet.’ I was in middle school when he was drafted by the Texans,” Luck said. “I remember watching him and being excited when he got drafted to the hometown team. Now I get to play with him, so it’s cool. It really is.”
In a continual line of question all too familiar from the Peyton Manning days, Luck was asked about the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. He’s 0-4 against them, losing by an average of 29 points, including a bitter 45-7 loss in January’s AFC title game in Foxborough, Mass. The man known for trying to sound upbeat amid adversity has never sounded more dejected than after that rainy night.
“It sits there, and it’s a bit embarrassing in a sense,” he said. “It fuels you. You realize if you want to do anything in the AFC, you’re going to have to figure out a way to beat those guys. It’s a great team, a lot of respect for how they play. We’ll work to try and put ourselves in a position to hopefully have a chance to beat them when we play them.”
The Colts will get another crack at the Patriots on Oct. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“You’d be lying if you say, ‘Ah, no, I don’t think about that,’” Luck admitted.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.