BACK IN THE SADDLE

Sunday will be the sixth game day of Andrew Luck’s NFL life. Luck has provided some outstanding moments for Indianapolis over his first five outings. The proving grounds for every NFL player come weekly, and Sunday will be another step in his growth. Also, a Friday Notebook.

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INDIANAPOLIS –Sundays for the Indianapolis Colts have provided two achievements and three setbacks.

It is a team heavy on new faces this year, starting with the general manager, Ryan Grigson, its head coach, Chuck Pagano, who will miss his third game on Sunday while battling an illness, a total of 16 new assistant coaches and an active playing roster that reflects only 20 players who joined the club prior to this season.

There is burgeoning young talent sprinkled around the roster, with quarterback Andrew Luck headlining that cast.

Luck has completed 118-of-221 passes for 1,488 yards, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.  Four times he has attempted 40 or more passes in a game.  Once he threw 55, and his 31 completions set a club rookie mark.

Luck has three 300 -yard games, and he is tied with Carolina's Cam Newton for the second-most ever by an NFL rookie.  Peyton Manning had four in 1998.

Luck is averaging 297.6 yards per game, fifth in the league and most among rookies.  His 44.2 attempts per game rank second-most in the league.  He followed becoming the first NFL rookie since 1971 to lead a fourth-quarter comeback win in the month of September by doing it again on the first Sunday the NFL calendar flipped to October.

Luck is pursued on Sundays by opponents, poked and prodded during the week by inquirers covering the team and measured statistically almost daily to competitors at his position, both past and present. 

On his first two home Sundays, he shared the playing field with quarterbacks taken in last year's first round, Minnesota's Christian Ponder (12th) and Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert (10th). 

His third home Sunday featured a quarterback in Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers who replaced a legend, then directed his team to a world championship. 

The next two home Sunday's, Luck will compete with quarterbacks taken in this year's first round, Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (22nd) and Miami's Ryan Tannehill (8th). 

Luck already has handled facing the draft's second overall pick, Robert Griffin III, when the Colts visited Washington in preseason.

Coming off a tough performance last Sunday at the Jets, a 35-9 setback, Luck even was asked on Wednesday about Manning's comeback performance for Denver on Monday Night Football.

The measuring, the numbers, the comparisons go on and on.  It is life in the NFL, and it is the noise that goes along with playing in America's favorite sport.

Luck, however, has but one quiet pursuit. 

Luck was asked recently if there were a statistic to which he pays particular attention.  The question being asked was of a player who thought one of his finest collegiate games came in 2011 when Stanford crushed Washington, 65-21.  The Cardinal rushed for a school record 446 yards.  Luck was 16-of-21 passing for 169 yards, all seasonal-low individual totals. 

Head Coach David Shaw sought out his quarterback afterward and heard Luck say he thought the performance was one of his best.  According to Shaw, it was because of what Luck saw, how the team performed in run checks and pass protections – areas that equated to winning.  Shaw said Luck's feelings did not dwell on individual numbers. 

Posed the question by an insightful local reporter, Luck cited specifics related to his position and his overarching measuring stick spoke volumes about his integrity.

"I think wins are important, probably the number one thing," said Luck.  "I think there are stats that do tell you a little bit of a story. I've always believed third-down percentage, completion percentage, touchdown-interception ratio.  I think they all are combined and entered to form a passer rating or whatever they may have. 

"Wins, I think, are the most important."

Luck returns to the competitive saddle on Sunday.  After last week's loss, he said he will do the same thing he does after every performance – flush it.

He is a gifted talent, a shrewd, selfless and intense competitor.  He is as driven as much for his team to succeed as any Colts player who ever has worn the Horseshoe.

INJURY UPDATE – Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians on Friday said nose tackle Martin Tevaseu (ankle), cornerback Darius Butler (shoulder), running back Donald Brown (knee), defensive end Cory Redding (knee), defensive end Fili Moala (knee) and linebacker Robert Mathis (knee) are out for Sunday's game.  This is the second straight game missed by Mathis, Tevaseu and Brown.  Redding was injured at the Jets last Sunday.  All other injured Colts are probable for action.  Arians said cornerback Vontae Davis will start.  Linebacker Jerrell Freeman will start and Pat Angerer will see his first action since the opening week of preseason.  Guard Joe Reitz could see his first action of the season as well.  

COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE):  BRUCE ARIANS (On difficulty in finding consistency on defensive side of ball)"It's a credit to the coaching staff to do what they're doing.  Our backup defensive line right now has a cumulative (total) after today 10 practices.  So, that's a lot of new.  Coach (Gary) Emanuel is earning his paycheck, and he's doing a heck of a job.  We'll see how it goes.  We might get fortunate enough to get a couple guys back and they won't have to play.  But we'll get ready for them to play and we'll see how it goes." (On if dealing with injuries is new to him)"No, the year we went to the Super Bowl, we played four quarterbacks and seven offensive tackles.  I's football, it's the NFL, it happens.  It normally usually happens all at one position too.  It's never spread out through the team.  We're hurting defensively as far as that goes but, 'Next Man Up.'  If you say it, you've got to believe in it." (On Jerry Hughes)"He's gotten better and better.  That was his best ballgame at that side having moved over to a new position.  He embraced it and played one of his better ballgames.  Hopefully, he can improve that if he has to do it again this week." (On importance of getting pressure on opposing QB)"Any time you can do that you obviously make them uncomfortable, especially a young one, getting him to move out of the pocket or move around.   Most young quarterbacks are going to keep their eyes where their reads are and telegraph some things.  If you can make them uncomfortable, it helps disrupt their accuracy.  (If you) hit them, it helps a lot more to get their feet moving."(On Cleveland)"(They are) a very young team, but I see all their guys out there (laughs).  That's the big difference.  Offensively, we're getting healthy.  That part of it, their offense versus our offense, is very similar.  A young back, great back, two great backs, a bunch of young wide receivers, young quarterback, Pro Bowl left tackle and Pro Bowl center, they're solid up front.  They've been doing this a little longer than we have."(On how challenging trying to get young team consistent weekly)"The challenge is the difference in the faces, learning.  Guys have to move to different jobs.  If we put our 11 guys that we started with out there, it would not be much of a challenge.  It's a pretty good football team.  Right now, all we're thinking about is getting to 3-3.  If we get to 3-3, we'll be with half the teams in this league going into the stretch.  It's not about being young.  Most of these guys have played a college football season.  They're not young any more.  The guys who just showed up in the last two weeks, they're young.  We'll play with them, and I'm sure they will give us great effort and everything they have in this ballgame."(On if the defense starts with controlling the run game)"There's no doubt.  Once you open up the can of worms, they're going to jump on it.  Until you put that fire out and make them go somewhere else, they're going to keep pounding it.  Just like when you're a kid and you found a mud hole, you stomped all the water out of that thing before you went to find another one.  It's the same thing here.  They're capable of (a power run game), and we've got to put that out." (On talking with Chuck Pagano)"He had a great day (Tuesday).  I couldn't get him off the phone.  I told him to quit calling everybody.  He was going to get himself tired again.  He was wearing it out yesterday.  I have just a few texts this morning, but I haven't had the chance to get back to him.  He was full-bore yesterday." (On learning to get past Jets game and not dwell on it)"It's just like the win after Green Bay, the loss after New York, you have the 24-hour rule.  You have another team coming up.  You can't dwell on it.  You fix it.  You look at the tape, identify what happened right and wrong and go onto the next day.  We've done that.  I think everybody sees what we're capable of being.  If we don't play the way we're capable of playing, we'll get beat like that.  It's simple things." (On where turnovers are on his priority list)"Number one, especially on the road.  I think we've got eight giveaways, one takeaway on the road.  You're not going to beat anyone on the road that way.  At home, it's the other way around, I think we have two.  It's something that we went into the game talking about.  Sometimes when you talk too much about something, it happens.  We talked about not giving them the short field and making them earn it.  We turned the ball over way too many times."(On if Luck were too amped up)"(He was) too amped up.  Just set your feet and throw it.  You don't have to throw those balls on the run, and take a little bit off of it because they're there.  The first one, just keep moving, draw the defense in to you a little bit more and let Dwayne (Allen) clear, instead of just trying to lob it in over his head. The second one, same thing, you've got time, you don't have to play at such a fast pace.  Slow down and let the play happen." (On Vick Ballard)"Everything was positive (with him), but we just didn't give it to him enough.  I went to the 'hurry-up' because we've been so successful, and I thought we'd be successful.  It takes some of his momentum away as far as getting carries.  He's the type of back who needs to tote it and tote it.  Right now, that's not our style.  There's no doubt some guys do (get better with more carries).  He's one of those guys." JUSTIN HICKMAN (On stopping run)"Every week we have another good back coming to see us.  They're going to try to run the ball on us.  We pride ourselves on not letting teams run it on us.  We have to come in, strap our pads on tight, put your helmet on and make sure you have air in it, then, 'Let's go.'   We fully expect them to come in and try to rush the ball after we gave up 200-plus yards last week." JERRELL FREEMAN (On difficulty getting continuity and consistency with all the new teammates)"We're working together.  You have to be professional.  The guys coming in, they have to be professional like we are.  They have to know the playbook.  If they have questions, they can ask us.  We're trying to be the best we can as a team.  It's our job.  The new guys are jumping in line just like we are, getting the scheme and system for the week.  They're going right to work.  The mindset is to stop the run.  It's going to take all 11 guys.  If not, they'll exploit it."(On if he feels like he has gone from a new face to an old face real quickly)"That's a good question.  I just want to keep it a consistent face.  I'm quite sure I'm like a lot of guys, it's my first year here.  I've only been here five or six weeks.  I still consider myself a fresh face, hopefully I can be a stable one."ROBERT MATHIS (On his message to young players) "Just can't take anything for granted. There are no gimmie games around this league. Just to ride that high from last weekend and come back crashing down, it's a valuable lesson to learn in this league. There are no gimmie games in this league. You just have to come and play this week." (On getting pressure on rookie QB) "It's very important.  Typically the NFL is a wake-up call to a lot of rookie quarterbacks.  The game moves a lot faster than what they're used to.  If you can get to them and make them make a rushed decision, normally it leads to the defense's favor." (On if has more of a sense of obligation to get back, or is it the love of the game) "It's a little bit of both.  You never want to not be out there with your teammates, if you can help it.  You control what you can, and that's the treatment and rehab.  You want to get back on the field." (On if he asks, 'Who are these guys?') "(Laughs) It's a revolving door.  Whoever comes in, they have to learn on the go, catch up with the speed and, 'Let's get this monster built.'  My player's hat is a little bit bigger than my coach's hat.  I feel like I have a lot to offer experience-wise.  They can come to me, or I can go to them, 'This is how we do things around here.' " (On if 52 teammates were lined up, could he name them all) "Probably not (laughs), probably not.  (Change) is the business of this game.  If guys on the field aren't getting the job done, they find somebody who can.  Injuries lead to it.  There are a lot of factors to guys coming in or leaving.  You control what you can." DWAYNE ALLEN (On when it comes to where he can't use youth as an excuse)"It's not an excuse now.  That's the way I think of it.  That's why I approach the game the way I do.  In my head, I don't have time to be a rookie.  I don't have time to have those rookie mistakes.  I do as much as I can just so we're not repeating plays because of anyone in the tight end room." (On if has confidence because team is playing Cleveland at home)"Yes and no.  We have played well at home, but the Browns have a very good defense.  They have nine takeaways from the secondary.  They do a good job of disrupting the pass game, and they have some tough guys up front that can stop our run game that hasn't been getting started in the past couple of weeks.  Our focus is to first run the ball.  Every team wants to run the ball.  We especially need to get our run game going.  We can obviously pass the ball but whenever we have that run game going, it's going to make it easier on Andrew to see people downfield and complete passes." ANTHONY CASTONZO (On team being resilient) "I think it's a result of not changing our mindset, just going out and playing winning practices leads to winning games.  We don't like to lose any week.  We go out to try to win the game every week.  Losing two in a row is not an option.  The approach is still the same.  To change the approach is to panic.  There's no panic with the team.  The approach is that we continue to do what we're doing, just do it better." MIKE McGLYNN (On if talent to win is here) "The talent is not the question.  It's everybody firing on one cylinder, getting everyone together and looking to see what we have to work, what we need to make sure happens come game day." (On if turnovers are a team thing) "Turnovers come from pressure, they come from a whole slew of things.  Yesterday, we turned the ball over four times.  That's way too many.  On that road, it's almost automatic you won't overcome it.  Even one turnover alone on the road, it's hard to overcome.  You have to make sure that when you go into a hostile environment that everything is tightened up.  It's a team loss.  Special teams, offense, defense, we shot ourselves in the foot in all three phases.  We didn't give ourselves a chance from the beginning.  It started with the long drive, the first drive of the game.  We go down there to the three-yard line, we have to score touchdowns in the red zone.  It's a huge thing on the road.  If you settle for field goal, it's going to be a long day."

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