"He's a hell of a player," Johnson said Tuesday before the team’s first mini-camp workout. "I think he's the best quarterback in this game.”
That kind of compliment will raise a few eyebrows around the NFL, although Luck has lived up to the hype as a rising star with three Pro Bowl selections in as many seasons and the most passing yards (12,957) of any quarterback in the first three years of a career. The 2012 No. 1 overall selection has also led the Colts on 12 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Johnson, 33, spent 12 seasons with the AFC South Division rival Houston Texans, which meant not playing with a quarterback like he has now. The seven-time Pro Bowl star has mentioned this before and did so again on Tuesday.
“When you look at all the teams that have won past Super Bowls over the past few years, they’ve all had great quarterback play,” he said. “We have a great quarterback here. I can’t say I’ve been fortunate to play with a great quarterback in my 12 years in the league. I’m able to play with one now.”
“I’ve been in the division now and played against them a whole lot,” Johnson said of the Colts and Luck. “When you just look at the different teams around the league and you look at the opportunity, we just felt like this was the best place. When you feel that way, you know that’s where you go.”
So far, Luck has made an impression not just with his pass placement but his on-field acumen.
“The one thing that stands out is he’s smart,” Johnson said. “He’s a very smart player. When he wants something done a certain way, he’s going to come to you and tell you how he wants it done. I’ve had a few moments where me and him have been able to sit down and talk about some things, how he wants things done out on the field. That’s what makes him great.
“Some guys just tell you and not really show you. He’s kind of hands-on with it. … If you want to be great, that’s what the great players do. Just because he’s younger, I don’t have a problem with that.”
Luck, who turns 26 in September, also drew praise from head coach Chuck Pagano after Tuesday’s workout.
“The quarterback was really good,” he said.
Pagano later added, “Today was obviously a bright spot in the pass game, that we’ve got the ability. Obviously No. 12 (Luck) makes all that go. (Backup) Matt (Hasselbeck) made some tremendous throws today. Guys were running great routes and catching the football and guys were putting it on the money. So I feel good where we’re at right now.”
“Andre, shoot, I’ve watched Andre play for what seems like forever,” said Luck, who played his high school ball in Houston. “So to have him on this team and in this locker room is awesome. Again, he’s just a smart football player, knows how to use his body to get open. He understands the game.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.