Luck ready to return after cancellation, sitting out opener
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck is tired of talking football.
He's ready to actually play.
Sure, Saturday's game against Baltimore is only a preseason opportunity to match wits with one of the league's traditionally strong defenses. Yes, it's at home, where he hasn't suited up in more than nine months. And, of course, he's eager to prove he's back to his old self.
The Colts' quarterback just doesn't want to make more of it than necessary.
''It's another step,'' Luck said Tuesday. ''In any season's journey, regardless of what happened the previous year, it will be good to step on the field and run some plays with the guys.''
This year is different, though.
Many fans have eagerly awaited Luck's return from an injury-marred 2015, a season in which the three-time Pro Bowler went 2-5 as the starter, was on pace to throw far more interceptions than any of his previous three seasons in the league and failed to make the playoffs for the first time. Initially, it looked like the comeback journey would begin Aug. 7 at Canton, Ohio - until the game was canceled because of unsafe field conditions.
Last week, coach Chuck Pagano implied that his starters were likely to play one or two series as had been the case in previous seasons. Eventually, he decided not to take any chances with Luck on a rainy day Buffalo or against the Bills' blitz-happy defense.
The next chance comes this weekend, and all indications are that Luck will finally play.
''I assume so,'' he said with a laugh.
If Luck he does make it onto the field Saturday, the to-do list will be long.
First, he must get acclimated to taking snaps under game conditions from rookie center Ryan Kelly, the Colts' first-round draft pick. Kelly played 15 snaps in last weekend's 19-18 victory over the Bills.
It will mark the first time Luck runs Rob Chudzinski's revamped offense against an opponent. Chudzinski took over as coordinator when Pep Hamilton was fired in November but waited until the offseason to install his entire offense.
This game also could be the first real test of how the new play-calling system works. Chudzinski intends to take advantage of a rules change that allows coordinator's to call plays from the coaches' booth directly to the quarterback. Previously, play calls from the coaches' box had to be called to sideline and relayed to the quarterback.
While Luck can't wait to get back to work and beyond some of the lingering questions about his health and performance, some teammates are excited to see Luck play for the first time since sustaining a lacerated kidney against Denver on Nov. 8.
''Absolutely, I want to see him play,'' Pro Bowl linebacker Robert Mathis said. ''He's our franchise quarterback.''
Pagano acknowledged Tuesday that the Colts were pretty ''vanilla'' in their play-calling last weekend and has not dropped any hints about whether that will change with Luck presumably behind center. He is keeping the play-count on Luck a secret, too.
Receiver T.Y. Hilton, Luck's favorite target, doesn't expect Luck to be rusty after such a long absence.
''That's what OTAs and minicamps are for,'' Hilton said. ''He's ready and I want him out there.''
Luck wants to be out there leading and inspiring his teammates for as long as he can - just like any other game.
''I've always thought that the first preseason game as a rookie is a special, special thing. It's the first time you go and put on a uniform, then after that they are all somewhat the same in a sense,'' Luck said. ''It's not to downplay any of them, there are things you get better at. Winning regular season games is the important thing.''
Note: The Colts released veteran receiver Josh Boyce on Tuesday. Afterward, Pagano said the Colts were hoping to get more looks at the receivers currently on the roster - and perhaps a free agent they may sign before Saturday.
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