After a 2015 season in which Andrew Luck struggled with turnovers and missed nine games due to injury, the Colts' franchise quarterback has turned the page and is getting ready for the 2016 campaign.
Luck returned to the practice field this week as the Colts began phase three of their offseason program, allowing them to conduct OTAs - team drills, though without contact. Luck is working without limitations and head coach Chuck Pagano said he "looks really good," and he's working to learn the new offense and improve individually.
Part of that improvement comes from evaluating himself and his play to see whether there are things that he needs to change.
“I think every year you reevaluate," Luck said Tuesday. "You’re going to change things every year. That’s the nature of it. Hopefully you improve every year. I definitely think, like always, I have an obligation to keep myself healthy not only to myself but to this team. If that dictates change in preparation a little bit and how you do things then yeah, I have to. For example, if a play breaks down in practice making a full-speed decision to throw it away like that just to train that aspect of it. Every year I think every player is going to want to improve if you’ve been deficient, you’re going to want to change in that area.”
Those potential changes, however, are a very fine line between playing smart and limiting Luck. “Yeah it is a fine line," Luck agreed. "You can talk about it, but it’s what you do on the field.”
That fine line is what the Colts have set out to find this offseason. We've heard Chuck Pagano say that Luck can't keep playing quarterback like a linebacker, and we've heard other coaches say that Luck needs to protect himself and play smarter. None of that is the coaches differing in their opinions or them saying that they want Andrew Luck to change his game; rather, it's the coaches stating the obvious: Luck needs to protect himself and stay on the field. That's something that he realizes as well, and he knows that as the franchise player he has an obligation to his team to be out on the field every week. At the same time, however, a number of games the Colts have won over the past four years have been because of Luck's playmaking when the rest of the play breaks down. The Colts don't want to take that away, as that's part of what makes him so special. So it's that fine line that the Colts want to find of protecting Luck and still letting Luck be Luck.
That's what Luck is working on, as he realizes that perhaps some minor changes need to take place. One such change? Throwing the ball away instead of forcing an interception, staying in the pocket and taking a hit, or trying to scramble and taking more hits. Sometimes, Luck's fighting to make a play is good, and other times, it's not. But those potential changes are things he's working on in practice.
“Like anything, you have to train it," Luck said of learning to throw the football away at times. "It’s something you train. Coach [Brian] Schottenheimer is talking about it on the field. Scott [Tolzien], Stephen [Morris], the quarterbacks and I, we talk about it, so it’s like anything else in practice, if you want to learn something, you do it in individual. You try to make sure you do it in team drills or 7-on-7 and then you have it down.”
Hopefully, those minor tweaks to Luck's game allow him to play better while on the field and, as he noted, keep himself on the field - something he has an obligation to do.