INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts finished the first three sessions of organized team activities (OTAs) on Wednesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Three more are scheduled for early next week and by June 7, the club will have concluded 10 such sessions of on-field work that meshes rookies with established veterans.
Head Coach Chuck Pagano and his staff oversaw the OTA work this week that included approximately 80 of the 90 players on roster, but the most noticeable absence was rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the top pick in the recent draft.
Per NFL rules that prohibit players from OTA participation when academic terms are not completed, Luck was at Stanford tending to the finishing touches of his work on an architectural degree from one of the nation’s most prestigious universities.
Pagano is constructing his first team in Indianapolis and while missing Luck, he says the rookie signal-caller is “staying on top of everything. He’s on point. … It’s killing him not to be here. He’s dying to get out here. He’s doing well.”
While Pagano supports the NFL initiative to adhere to the educational process of draftees, he stays in communication with Luck and looks forward to when the rookie will join his teammates in Indianapolis on June 8.
“(It’s) unbelievable (how much I would like to have him here), as much as Mr. (Jim) Irsay would like to have him, as much as these players would like to have him,” said Pagano. “For him to be here taking snaps, building chemistry, the timing with the offense, the timing with the receivers, all those kinds of things, it’s days lost. It’s like money you never get back. It would be awesome to have him here, but we’re going to make do.”
Luck went through the rookie camp in Indianapolis from May 4-6. He will have a three-day mandatory camp with the full squad from June 12-14. That will be the extent of on-field work with veterans until training camp opens in late July.
There were a handful of rookie quarterbacks in the NFL last year who had no work prior to training camp because of labor matters. Pagano noted the lack of spring work took different tolls on the players during the season.
“Last year, we had a lockout, right? There were four, five, six rookie quarterbacks who came in and a couple of those guys had more success than others,” said Pagano. “Doing what he’s doing, spending time with the materials that we’ve given him, working out, throwing. Right now we’re working on guys getting together outside of Indianapolis so we can start to build that camaraderie and the chemistry with those guys. It is what it is. That’s where we’re at.”
Luck is joined in Palo Alto by free agent wide receiver
“Besides school, he’s (Luck) spending time with Griff (wide receiver Griff Whalen) out there (at Stanford) and couple of his other teammates. He does football in the morning. He goes out there, throws, works out,” said Pagano while adding there has been no work to this point for Luck with the Colts’ veteran skill players.
“I’m eager (to see what he has), said Powers. “I came in to do some maintenance stuff the last day of rookie camp. I introduced myself to him, ‘Did you throw any picks during rookie camp?’ He kind of looked at me, ‘I don’t think I did.’ I said, ‘I’m Jerraud Powers. I’m pretty sure I’m going to picking you off a lot during this off-season (laughs).’ He laughed. He kind of laughed and said, ‘I don’t think you will.’
“That right there just shows the guy has a personality, but he also has that QB swagger and cockiness. I want to say that in a good way. He’s going to step in and handle the (position). I think he’s going to be a (heck) of a quarterback early, rather than people saying to give him a couple of years. I think he’s going to do a (heck) of a job this year.”
Powers is a dutiful performer who benefited from two seasons of OTA work before missing the sessions last year because of the lockout. Powers credits Luck for finishing the degree work he started. Powers said his teammates feel the same way as well, but he knows Luck could have been here working on details that will come into play soon.
“OTAs are very important. I guess the main thing he’s missing is the team camaraderie,” said Powers. “Everybody is here all at once. He’s missing some valuable time in knowing how (Austin) Collie wants the ball, knowing how Reggie (Wayne) wants the ball. He’s already familiar with (Coby) Fleener and those guys (in the rookie camp). That’s the main part.”
Powers has no qualms about Luck’s aptitude and ethic, stressing that Luck’s preparedness already is evident.
“As far as playbook-wise, he’s on the same page now as the other guys, or he might be ahead,” said Powers. “He’s one of those guys who takes care of things early. He is missing the team camaraderie, though. … We know when he gets in, he’s going to be full-throttle, ready to go, ready to work.”
Pagano’s anticipation of Luck’s arrival is understandable as he is trying to help shape this season and those ahead. Pagano knows what he has in Luck, and that view is shared by Tom Moore, the Colts’ former offensive coordinator.
“In spending time with Andrew, he is the real deal,” said Moore. “He is extremely intelligent. He’s extremely prepared. He has great retention and recall, and he’s an extremely hard worker.
“Some people talk about wanting to be good. He wants to be great, and he is willing to do what you have to do to be great. The game is very, very important to him. Being successful is very important to him. He’s going to put in the time and effort to get it done.”