INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck walked into the Colts' locker room Wednesday dressed in his customary shorts and baseball cap.
It was no routine appearance.
In his first public comments since being diagnosed with a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle, Indianapolis' franchise quarterback said he felt better, was confident he'd return before the end of the regular season, and is starting to increase his rehab work.
And now, Luck acknowledges, he needs to do a better job protecting himself.
''Part of it I brought upon myself for not sliding in certain situations,'' he said. ''There's a time and a place for taking a hit - I'm not going to apologize in that sense because sometimes it's appropriate. But sliding is something to improve on.''
Sitting out is not a role Luck is accustomed to.
After winning Stanford's starting job as a redshirt freshman, Luck started 38 consecutive games. After being selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, he started 57 straight games, including the playoffs - a streak that ended earlier this season when he missed two games because of a sore throwing shoulder.
Luck's replacement, 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, won both.
This time, it's different.
Coach Chuck Pagano said Luck was expected to miss two to six weeks after getting hurt in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 victory over Denver on Nov. 8, and Luck knows it will take more than pain tolerance to be cleared.
''Rest is a huge, huge portion of it, from what the doctors and everyone has told me for organs to get healthy,'' Luck said when asked about the recovery process. ''As I understand, organ healing is non-negotiable.''
Luck said he knew something was wrong almost as soon as he took the awkward-looking hit in the Broncos game. But adrenaline kicked in and he continued playing.
Afterward, Luck was sore. When the pain didn't dissipate by Nov. 9, team doctors sent him for tests.
The next day, Pagano announced Luck would miss most of the rest of the season.
Clearly, this is not Luck's preference as the Colts (5-5) try to build some late-season momentum with surprise playoff contender Tampa Bay (5-5) coming to town. But Luck doesn't have a choice.
He'll probably continue to stand on the sideline and provide insight, as he did last week when Hasselbeck rallied the Colts from two 14-point deficits to win at Atlanta and become the third quarterback in NFL history to win three consecutive starts at age 40 or older.
''He's at practice and he's very helpful. He's always working though, as you guys know. You know him, he doesn't do anything passively,'' Hasselbeck said. ''It wouldn't surprise me to see him with an exercise bike next to the huddle someday.''
Luck isn't the only key player the Colts could be missing this weekend.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo, Indy's best offensive lineman, did not practice Wednesday. He's expected to miss the game with a sprained right medial collateral ligament.
Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams (left ankle), cornerback Vontae Davis (right hamstring) and running back Frank Gore (ankle) also sat out Wednesday, while starting right guard Hugh Thornton (ankle) did limited work.
But the big question, of course, is how much more time Luck will miss.
''I know this week we picked it up a little bit but by no means back on the field running around full speed, so I sort of defer to the doctors,'' Luck said. ''I feel a lot better this week. Yeah, there was a bit of lethargy, didn't feel very good by any means, but feel a lot better this week.''
NOTES: The NFL announced that the Colts will play Jacksonville in London next October. It will be a home game for the Jaguars. ... Team officials are asking fans to arrive early to each of the last three home games because of enhanced security. ... Receiver Phillip Dorsett (lower leg), linebackers Jerrell Freeman (ribs) and Erik Walden (foot) also did not practice. ... Receiver Andre Johnson and linebacker Robert Mathis were given an extra day of rest, while cornerback D'Joun Smith (knee) did limited work. ... With the Colts needing help at tackle, Indy signed John Wetzel to the practice squad Tuesday. Wetzel spent the first nine weeks this season on Dallas' practice squad.
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