Luck heads back to Stanford with work to do
Andrew Luck already has a blueprint for his month away from the Colts.
Indy's new quarterback plans to keep his head in the playbook, review film of this weekend's rookie minicamp and work out with as many of his new teammates - whenever and wherever - as he can.
League rules prohibit rookies from attending any offseason workouts at the team complex, other than the rookie minicamp, until they have completed the college semester's classes. That means Luck is barred from working out at Indy's facilities until after he finishes his final class June 7.
''It is tough. I think it is very tough,'' Luck said Sunday after this weekend's fifth and final workout. ''We are going to have to find ways, legally, or to work around the rules, to get work in with the guys and start building those relationships with the veterans who can't be here at this minicamp. As a rookie quarterback, I wish it would be easier to get out here and to do this stuff, but it is the way it is. Everybody has got to do it.''
Luckily, the Colts and their new quarterback have come up with some creative ways to make this work.
NFL rules do not prevent rookies from working with teammates outside the team complex, nor do they prohibit communications with team officials. So the Colts and Luck intend to take advantage of both loopholes.
Moments after taking Luck with the first overall pick April 26, general manager Ryan Grigson noted Indianapolis might use iPads and teleconferencing to help Luck's progression. The Colts also made some shrewd moves to assist with Luck's workouts over the next four weeks.
They took Luck's college teammate and close friend, tight end Coby Fleener, with the 34th overall pick. Then they signed another Stanford alum, receiver Griff Whalen, and former Cal receiver Jeremy Ross, as undrafted free agents. Veteran receiver Austin Collie also happens to live on the outskirts of Sacramento, Calif., a roughly 2 1/2-hour drive from Stanford's campus.
It gives Luck a chance to work with two projected starters and most certainly give him a better grasp of the offense when he returns to Indy on June 8.
What else can the Colts do?
Perennial Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne has already contacted Luck about getting together, too. Wayne traditionally works out in Miami, where he attended college, and it just happens that Indy's third-round pick, receiver T.Y. Hilton, is from Miami and played at nearby Florida International. The tentative plan is for Luck to travel to Miami.
Team owner Jim Irsay has even offered to make his personal helicopter and private plane available to his players.
''I've got to figure out dates and talk to the other guys first, but I will definitely use whatever means of transportation, especially if it is Mr. Irsay's stuff,'' Luck said with his familiar smile.
The class schedule should help Luck, too.
He needs to finish two classes to earn his architectural design degree and they meet only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It should give Luck enough time to work on academics and still spend those long weekends preparing for his new job.
''This is what I love to do and I want to devote 100 percent of my time right now to being the best football player I can be and the best quarterback for this team,'' said Luck, who also plans to attend Stanford's graduation ceremony in June. ''But I realize that I'm not going to let 3 1/2 years of school go to waste right now. I am going to try to finish strong and go from there.''
Luck takes over a team that started last season with Super Bowl aspirations but finished a league-worst 2-14 after Peyton Manning was lost for the season following multiple neck surgeries. The disastrous collapse led to a complete overhaul.
Irsay changed the front office and coaching staff in January and February, then released Manning, the longtime face of the franchise, and several other fan favorites in March. Those moves paved the way for Luck to become the face of the post-Manning era in Indy.
''He's a great player, a great kid and he'll fit in perfectly,'' Manning said Saturday night in Indy.
But the expectations for Manning's successor are exceedingly high.
Luck was projected to be the NFL's No. 1 draft pick in 2011 and 2012 and will have to endure constant comparisons to Manning, whom Luck has called one of his football idols.
The problem right now is fitting in.
As Manning knows, it takes time for rookie quarterbacks to learn the new playbook and get on the same page with teammates. The NFL's rules won't help Luck's transition. So the Colts are doing what they can to make it all work.
''Like we said from the beginning, we are going to throw everything at him. Then once we do get him back, we will break it down and they are going to hear it again,'' new coach Chuck Pagano said this weekend.
Until early June, it's really up to Luck and the other Colts players to do their own homework - and follow the coaches' script.
''Keep your head in the (playbook),'' Fleener said. ''Make sure you are not sitting around doing nothing and playing video games. Make sure you are staying around football.''