Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck closed mini-camp Thursday with a repetitive assessment of his contract situation, he expressed eagerness about working in coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense and said he’s been impressed by rookie center Ryan Kelly.
The culmination of eight weeks of offseason training activities had Luck sounding refreshed and ready for the clock turning ahead 47 days to when the Colts report for training camp at Anderson University on July 26.
First things first, regarding ongoing contract negotiations, the obvious question was asked again a day after Colts owner Jim Irsay said he would be “surprised” if a new Luck deal isn’t finalized before camp.
“I do anticipate it getting done,” the three-time Pro Bowl passer said. “As far as importance of getting it done or not, if it happens, great, if it doesn’t happen, great too. I know I’m a Colt and I’m going to do the best job I can for this team no matter what the situation is. It doesn’t weigh on me.”
The new deal is expected to be in the range of $25 million per season, which would make Luck the NFL’s highest-paid player.
But he’s repeatedly said a new contract isn’t something he worries about. He’s been more focused on returning to the practice field and preparing in earnest for a bounce-back 2016 after Luck missed nine games due to injuries last season.
He worked only one game with Chudzinski after the associate head coach replaced fired coordinator Pep Hamilton as playcaller last season. The Colts upset eventual Super Bowl champion Denver at home, but Luck suffered a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle after taking two hits on a high-low tackle in the fourth quarter.
The franchise player is healthy now, and although he admits a reluctance to slide in such situations, he was amused his slide in Wednesday’s public practice at Lucas Oil Stadium prompted a round of applause from fans.
“No, that was not a statement,” he said of the slide with a laugh. “Just sliding I guess, I don’t know.”
Asked if he doesn’t like to slide, Luck said, “No, I have no problem sliding.”
As for the “Chud” offense, now that a re-hired Chudzinski has had time to install his own playbook, Luck looks forward to seeing what the Colts can do.
“Every coordinator has a personality, right? An offensive personality and you really never know until you’re in those games,” Luck said. “It’s maybe not even one game, it’s three or four games and getting going. So I think we are waiting to see a little bit as well, but Chud has a great history of offensive football and a lot of Norv Turner in there. It’s fun and it attacks with the run game, with the pass game, with the deep stuff and the short stuff. Guys are playing fast.”
Colts players have reminded the younger teammates that the time off between now and training camp doesn’t equate to a vacation. The expectation to stay in top shape and continue to study the playbook is constantly emphasized.
“We talk to the young guys all the time, one of the big differences between college and the pros is you don’t have a coach holding your hand through the summer and you have to be a professional,” Luck said. “You have to take it upon yourself to get better. We motivate each other. Guys will get together.
“We’ll do our certain things but you have to come to camp, and I’ve learned this before, you have to come to camp better than when you left mini-camp. That’s your obligation as a professional. It is a fun time. Obviously it’s the summer and there’s a chance to be with your family and to sort of regenerate. But training, working out and doing all of that is vitally important if you want to be a successful football team.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano has observed Luck growing in confidence with his throwing.
“Yeah, I think physically and mentally I feel like I have gotten better as a quarterback, better as a thrower and better at understanding this offense," Luck said. "It’s been a learning process in a sense with 'Chud' and he’s a great teacher, and Schotty (quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer) are some great teachers. I think the more we’ve practiced, the more we’ve gotten our reps in, I think the faster we have gotten as an offense. The faster we’re playing and that certainly lends itself to confidence, yeah.”
Luck conceded after missing time last season that his approach toward returning for camp has changed. He still has work to do to prepare himself for camp although he politely declined, with a laugh, to specify what that will entail.
Aside from connecting with family, he’ll still be throwing footballs and staying sharp.
“You’re a football player, you want to play football,” he said. “Basketball players want to shoot hoops. Soccer players want to kick the soccer ball. Quarterbacks want to throw footballs.”
Luck also intends to spend some time with Kelly, the team’s first-round draft choice. It’s all about building a stronger quarterback-center relationship on and off the field.
“He’s been impressive,” Luck said. “All the young guys have been very, very impressive. But he’s done a heck of a job of taking ownership of that position and we’ve been hitting the ground running.”
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