The Indianapolis Colts are preparing to play this Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons without their franchise quarterback, as Andrew Luck is dealing with a lacerated kidney and a torn abdominal muscle that is expected to take several weeks to heal.
Matt Hasselbeck is capable of filling in for Luck, but the Colts can't afford to have their starting quarterback keep getting injured moving forward. As a result, the team is working with him on changing a part of his game to help him stay healthy: his reckless running.
Andrew Luck is a tough player who doesn't always mind contact and is more than willing to take a hit if it means helping out his team. The upside is that Luck can make plays other quarterbacks can't make as he breaks tackles or plows defenders over. The downside, however, far outweighs the upside, as it can lead to injuries. In fact, that is indeed what led to this injury for Luck, as he took off running against the Broncos and didn't slide but instead opened himself up to a big hit where he was sandwiched between two defenders. That was the play on which Luck was injured, and it wasn't even like he was going for a first down, either (he was well short of the sticks). Luck absolutely needs to slide and protect himself better.
The Colts have worked with Luck on this before, and head coach Chuck Pagano has said it publicly. He has joked about it publicly, saying that the Colts need to bring in a slip 'n slide or the Indianapolis Indians baseball team to help Luck learn to slide. It's not like the Colts haven't tried, but they also want to let Andrew be Andrew. At this point, however, with Luck now out with injuries as a direct result of not sliding, perhaps they will be able to get the message through to their quarterback.
"We're going to talk every day until he figures it out and we figure it out as a team," Pagano said on Monday. "Because he knows full well that he can't do that and he can't put himself or this team in jeopardy by doing that. Guys strain, you love the grit, you love the toughness and all that stuff, playing the position like a linebacker, [but] he can't. That's his mentality, that's how he is, and there's some great plays that are made and some first downs that are made, but we'll continue to obviously stress that. Availability, as we talk about, is huge, especially at that position."
One of the things that makes Andrew Luck a dangerous player to defend against is the threat he presents in the run game, and in his career he has rushed for 1,101 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry. This season, Luck is averaging the most rushing yards per game (28) of any season in his career. His running ability is a huge threat, and it was on full display in the Colts' win against the Broncos. At the same time, however, Luck needs to be smarter about the hits that he takes and he has to realize that it's ok to slide at the end of a run. That's the balance that the Colts are working on with Luck and trying to figure it out: how do they let Andrew be Andrew while at the same time helping protect him?
Ultimately, it comes down to Luck being smarter when he runs. As much as he may be built like a linebacker and as much as he may be able to go up against an opposing linebacker, that's not the smartest thing nor is it the best thing for Luck or for the team. So the Colts will continue to work on the issue and help Luck to be smarter while running, which is especially practical now that Luck was injured on a play in which he didn't do that.