After playing a full 16 games in each of his first three seasons, Andrew Luck missed more than half a season in 2015 with a lacerated kidney. He finished with 1,881 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in seven games, as the Colts – after going 11-5 in Luck’s first three years – finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
This year, however, Luck is back, healthy and ready to roll.
“Last year was disappointing,” Luck said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I didn’t play as well as I would have liked to. Obviously I got injured and missed a bunch of time, but I learned from it. I think every year you have to learn and you have to grow and get better. I’m excited for this season. Obviously as a quarterback, you got to be on the field. You’re not helping the team if you’re on the sidelines, so making sure you’re as fit as possible and staying healthy is obviously a big goal.”
The Colts won the AFC South in 2013 and 2014 but finished second to Houston in 2015. Even with Luck back in the fold, though, Indy is by no means a lock to reclaim the division, as Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville all improved this offseason.
“You always want to win the division, and there’s some really good teams,” Luck said. “Houston has obviously had some success, and Tennessee and Jacksonville are great franchises. It’s always tough. It’s always tough to win a game in the NFL. But one of the goals is always to try and win the division, and that starts with winning your home games and trying to win your division games.”
Peyton Manning did that seemingly every year in Indy, where he played from 1998 to 2011. While the comparisons between Manning and Luck are inevitable, the 26-year-old is focused on creating his own legacy – not living up to someone else’s.
“The reception in Indianapolis since day one has been outstanding,” Luck said. “Fans have treated me like their quarterback and not someone else, not expecting me to be anybody else, and I do appreciate that. I’ve never felt like I’m trying to climb up a ladder and compete with Peyton’s legacy. What Peyton did in Indianapolis was incredible, and obviously (he’s) one of the greatest quarterbacks ever – not just on the field, but the stuff off the field that he did in this city is great. I’m a fan. I’m a fan of Peyton Manning. But I’ve never felt like I had to compete with him or fill his shoes. I just try to do the best that I can do, and hopefully at the end of the day that’s good enough.”
While Luck isn’t looking backward, he does look around the league. He admires the play of Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins and others. That said, he isn’t trying to compete with them, at least not directly.
“You’re obviously aware of what’s going on around the league,” Luck said. “I’ve never really viewed it as quarterbacks-playing-quarterbacks or you got to do better than this quarterback. Every offense, every team, is so different and asks your quarterback to do so many different things. To me, football is the greatest team sport in the world. That’s probably why I like it. I love it so much.”
Luck was also asked about the schism between the NFL and its players, which stems from concussions, lawsuits and the current collective bargaining agreement, among other factors.
The former Stanford standout wouldn’t bite.
“I’ve honestly sort of shied away from that and tried to focus a little more on me getting better as a player,” he said. “I don’t think I have the liberty maybe as some of the older guys that have been around and maybe seen things to have a firm, strong opinion on things. I just try to be a football player, man.”
After missing so many games last season, Luck and his health will be a major storyline in 2016. As the Colts learned last year – and in 2011, when Peyton Manning missed 16 games due to neck surgery – there are no backup franchise quarterbacks. Avoiding injury and staying on the field with be Luck’s primary focus.
“We’ve definitely talked about it and practiced it,” Luck said. “It’s situational awareness. It’s knowing when to slide, knowing when to get rid of the ball. Maybe in the fourth quarter, you do take that shot to try and get a ball off or dive to the end zone. We have a great training staff, a great weight room, that take care of all of us. They do a heck of a job making sure we’re healthy and ready to go.”