Colts new QB ready to put on pads for 1st time

In three plays, Andrew Luck showed Indianapolis Colts’ fans how

tough life can be for a rookie quarterback.

He threw one interception, had another pass broken up and nearly

picked off and then ran for a score on a quarterback draw. One

defensive coach even urged Jerry Hughes to celebrate the

interception.

Welcome to the NFL, kid.

Luck looked calm during most of the afternoon practice,

completing 27 of 38 passes during team drills, throwing for three

touchdowns and one interception in his first workout in full pads

since being selected No. 1 overall in April’s draft. By most

accounts, it was another good day for the two-time Heisman Trophy

runner-up.

”He’s not a rookie quarterback, really,” safety Tom Zbikowski

said. ”He’s smart. He’s wise beyond his years.”

And he should feel comfortable in his new Colts gear.

Luck dressed in white pants, a white helmet and a red No. 12

jersey – the same colors he wore at Stanford the past three years.

Had it not been for the blue stripes on the helmets and pants, a

bigger, faster defense and 2,000 people monitoring his every move,

Luck might have felt as though he was still in college.

So far, things have gone as well as could be expected.

Coaches and teammates have praised his knowledge of the offense

and his ability to take command in the huddle. Former Colts coach

Tony Dungy was impressed with Luck’s decisiveness. Team owner Jim

Irsay acknowledged that despite some anticipated rough patches this

season, Luck will make the transition from college star to

franchise quarterback as smoothly as any quarterback since Peyton

Manning in 1998.

That is why the Colts (No. 32 in the AP Pro32) released Manning

in March and drafted his successor a month later.

But it’s not just those inside the rope line who are monitoring

Luck’s progress.

Thousands of fans have shown up each of the first three days the

Colts have practiced at Anderson University, a Division III school

about 30 miles northeast of the team complex on Indianapolis’ west

side.

The only knock on Luck, so far, has been his inability to carry

a tune. Even tight end Coby Fleener, one of Luck’s closest friends

and college teammates, couldn’t resist taking a shot.

”It probably was not as bad as Andrew’s,” Fleener said when

asked to assess his own performance in front of the team Sunday

night. ”But it wasn’t as good as I would have liked.”

On the field, Luck has been a big hit.

He has looked relaxed, sharp and in complete control.

But the three plays near the end of practice were a reminder of

the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with relying on a rookie

quarterback.

Hughes, Indy’s 2010 first-round pick, made an acrobatic catch,

barely getting both feet down inbounds after Dominique Jones

bobbled a pass near the sideline. Then a defensive coach shouted:

”Spike it.”

On the next play, Luck tried to force a pass through two

defenders and into the arms of Reggie Wayne. One defender broke up

the play, and the second just missed making it back-to-back

picks.

Luck’s response was to fake out the entire defense, run in for

the score and then hand the ball to Wayne, who did spike it.

”We spent a great deal today in situational stuff, a lot of red

zone work,” first-year coach Chuck Pagano said. ”It was great

things by both sides of the football. Good execution at times on

offense and defensively some guys made some big plays down

there.

”This is not an easy practice. We’re out here for quite some

time, and anytime you slap the pads back on, there’s an acclamation

period that we got to go through.”

Pagano and his band of ex-Ravens have brought a fiery intensity

to training camp, especially on defense.

But with so much hope resting on Luck’s strong right arm, nobody

wants to be the first to hit the rookie – even if it was an

accident.

”We can’t touch him so he’ll be good,” safety Antoine Bethea

said before practice. ”Like we said, no cheap shots, mano-a-mano,

thud up and live here to see another day.”

For Luck, it’s all part of the learning curve.

”The first day I was here (Dwight) Freeney called me over into

`his office’ as he said, over by his locker, and just sort of gave

me some heads up on training camp and some things that he’s

learned,” Luck said. ”So I’m very thankful for them going out of

their way and trying to help the young, know-it-all rookie

out.”

Notes: The Colts have already lost two players with

season-ending injuries to their left knees. Pagano said offensive

lineman Ben Ijalana, a second-round pick in 2011, and backup

linebacker A.J. Edds both have ”significant” ACL injuries. Both

were injured Sunday during the team’s first practice in helmets and

shoulder pads. … Hughes didn’t just have the interception he also

looked solid in pass rush drills. … Indy’s other rookie

quarterback, Chandler Harnish, made the biggest play of the day

when he connected with first-year receiver Kris Adams on a long

pass play that probably would have been a touchdown.

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