ANDERSON – Kicker Adam Vinatieri has made a living with fancy footwork.
On Friday, he was in full form when he was asked how he would compare a young Andrew Luck with a young Tom Brady, who Vinatieri saw when the two played together at New England.
Vinatieri dodged comparisons between the two, but it is clear that the 17-year veteran is bullish on the Colts' new signal-caller.
"Watching Andrew (Luck) go out there and do his thing, it's kind of fun seeing that," said Vinatieri. "He's a younger version of some great quarterbacks we've had around here in the past. He's making all the throws. He's a smart kid. I'm looking forward to watching him when the bullets start flying for real."
No moment is too big for Vinatieri, whether it is the final seconds of a Super Bowl or an interview session. Like his kicking, Vinatieri keeps his comments true, and his compliments of Luck were dead on.
"When you put shoulder pads on and start throwing the ball around for real, you get a good idea of progress and where everybody's at," said Vinatieri. "He has impressed me with his arm strength. He's the kind of guy who when he has a short window throws the ball through there real pretty. He can make all the throws.
"What I like is his leadership. He has that 'commander out on the field' thing. He leads the huddle really well, and he's really, really smart. He can change plays and do stuff that almost makes him seem like a third- or fourth-year guy instead of a rookie. A smart guy who can throw the ball well, that usually is a formula for success."
Vinatieri joined former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy in claiming Luck looks much more like a young veteran than he does a rookie. Dungy made the same observation last Sunday on the camp's opening practice day when he visited and watched Luck from the sidelines.
"I think that's (his 11-on-11 work) what impressed me the most, to see the decision-making and the lack of any indecisiveness," Dungy said last Sunday. "He looked like a third- or fourth-year guy in this first practice. I guess I know now what those guys, Ryan (Grigson) and Jim Irsay and Chuck (Pagano), knew that they are going to be in good hands."
Reggie Wayne, like almost every other player in camp, has been asked on more than one occasion about Luck. When asked to compare him with Peyton Manning, Wayne would not bite.
"You know, it's kind of hard for me to answer that question," said Wayne. "I mean, Andrew's going to be good. He's going to be really good. He's really smart. He knows what's going on around him. He understands the concept. He understands the terminology. He understands it all, but I can't compare the two. That won't be fair. You've just got to sit back and see what happens.
"I wasn't here when Peyton (Manning) came as a rookie, I believe in 1998, so I'm not sure what kind of ball he threw then. I'll tell you Andrew throws a nice, strong ball, nice, strong spiral. I guess they both have their pros and cons if you had to match them up right now. Andrew is going to be Andrew, and he'll tell you he's not here to be Peyton. He's here to be himself and if everybody expects him to be great some day, that means he's on the right path. All he's got to do is continue doing what he's doing."
Luck has had every throw charted by practice observers this week. Those onlookers have Luck, through Saturday's practice, hitting 75 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and five interceptions in 11-on-11 and seven-on-seven drills. Wayne hopes Luck is aware who his top target should be, though Luck has done a great job of spreading the wealth among his receivers.
"I would hope so, I would hope so," said Wayne of hoping to be the top target. "I guess we'll find out, to be determined. But he's doing a great job of throwing to the open receiver, and that's kind of what it is right now. We've just got to take what the defense gives us and try to keep those chains moving."
Luck keeps an even-keeled nature just as much as he keeps an intent glare down the field. He gets neither too high nor low with performance or accolades.
As for grizzled veterans and a former Super Bowl-winning coach saying he plays beyond his years, Luck deflects such praise.
"I feel like a rookie, especially when I have to sing in front of all the other guys (laughs)," said Luck. "I try to approach every day with the mental attitude, 'I'm going to handle mentally everything that's thrown my way.' It's very nice when two men of such high caliber say those things, but I feel like a scrub rookie every day so far.
"(I'm) on the right track, definitely on the right track, nowhere near 100 percent. I don't know that it ever will be 100 percent, but on the right track."