INDIANAPOLIS – It's the piece new NFL general managers don't often already have on the shelf.
The missing link that separates the elite from the rest in the NFL already resides in Indianapolis.
Chris Ballard's off-season checklist at his new job is long. Changes and upgrades are needed throughout several position groups.
But not at quarterback.
Andrew Luck has three playoff wins already on his resume and is under contract through the 2021 season.
Ask virtually any NFL GM which quarterback they would want to build around, and Luck is the likely response.
"In the team building exercise," Ballard says, "when you have that position in place, it does give you some leeway because you're not having to look for it."
While Luck is in place, his availability for off-season activities is in question.
Luck, who was scheduled to have a sit-down meeting with Ballard on Tuesday, is recovering from January shoulder surgery. An injured right shoulder limited Luck all 2016 and off-season surgery was deemed necessary for his long-term health.
There is no doubt that Luck's presence in Indy made the Colts GM opening a more attractive opportunity than your typical "rebuild" for a team making a change at the head of its personnel department.
The circumstances in Indianapolis are much more of a "reload" versus a "rebuild"---something that can't be said at many situations involving a new GM.
At his introductory press conference last Monday, Ballard acknowledged the talent of his franchise quarterback, before emphatically addressing one of his core values.
Team is what things will be about in Indianapolis.
Luck's talent is rare, but Ballard's job is to build the most complete team around No. 12.
"Andrew is a great player, but it will never be about one guy," Ballard says. "It's about all 53 men in that locker room. It's about all 63 men, including the practice squad, that we have.
"Is he a good piece? Absolutely. But he is just one of the 53 men that we have to go win with.
"I'll repeat this as many times as I can, Andrew can't just wave a magic wand. It's about the 53-men in that locker room. It's about them playing together as a team, playing for each other and fighting for each other. That's when you get the special teams."
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