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GENERAL MANAGER Ryan Grigson tells this story about his prized rookie quarterback: A teammate asks Andrew Luck in the cafeteria at training camp why he's not on Twitter. He tells Luck it could help him build his brand and have more control over his image. Luck's reply? "Are you kidding me? I'm here for football. That's it."
The No. 1 pick last April recoils at the thought of making pronouncements on Twitter or anywhere else. "I mean, really, no one needs to hear what I have to say," Luck offers when asked about the anecdote. "I have nothing to say."
Coaches and veterans want rookies, even precocious ones, to shut their mouths and do their jobs. The less preening the better, even when they do well. So they must have appreciated Luck's reaction to the praise he received after his boffo preseason debut, when he went 10 of 16 with two touchdown passes against the Rams and looked like a six-year vet: "It's a preseason game! It means nothing! Nothing at all!"
The 2012 Colts won't be measured in wins and losses, just as the 1998 Colts weren't judged harshly when Peyton Manning, Indy's last No. 1 pick, went 3--13 in his rookie year. Luck's first season could end with three wins too, though the pass rush, led by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, should make these Colts more competitive than the '98 team that allowed the second-most points in the league. This season will be about the care and nurturing of a quarterback who reminds so many around Indianapolis of the man he's replacing.
On the first day of rookie minicamp, Luck stepped to the line on one play and, after the middle linebacker—the Mike—had been mis-identified in a presnap read, changed the I.D. This is significant because all blocking assignments flow from the identification of the Mike when the offense comes to the line: The center takes the middle 'backer; the right guard takes the first rusher to the right; etc. When the play was run, coaches saw that Luck's audible was a better call than the original play. The point is, from the moment he arrived at training camp in Anderson, Ind., the Stanford product (and son of former Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck) showed that his reputation for painstaking preparation was well-deserved.
Beyond comprehending the offense, a young quarterback needs to understand that he's going to make mistakes, then grasp what went wrong the second he makes one. "When Andrew knows he's made the wrong choice, he'll almost always turn around and say, 'I got it, I got it—should have gone to the running back as the hot [receiver],'" says first-year coach Chuck Pagano. "He can scout himself immediately, instead of waiting for a coach to tell him or waiting to see it on tape. That means the learning process is going very fast."
"Out here," receiver Reggie Wayne said on the last day of training camp before the Colts broke for Indy, "he's been phenomenal, taking in a lot, digesting it, making every throw and taking control of the huddle. This defense here gives him a lot to [consider], and you can see it's not too big for him. I think he'll be very, very good.
"From what I've seen, I wouldn't say Luck is as [exacting] as Peyton—yet. But I can see it getting there. I can see him living in the film room. There's a lot of pressure on this dude. A lot. I can see him wanting to make his own foundation as a player and not just be in Peyton's shadow."
Right now, he's going to need help. Wayne turns 34 this year; fellow receiver Austin Collie has a history of concussions (including one in the preseason); and the Colts are trying to resuscitate the flagging career of wideout Donnie Avery. But two draftees had very good training camps: second-round tight end Coby Fleener (Luck's Stanford teammate), who will start, and receiver T.Y. Hilton, a quick, 5'9" third-rounder from Florida International.
For now, while Grigson builds the Colts around the next franchise guy, those will be the players Luck leans on. In Indianapolis it feels like the beginning of some beautiful friendships.