INDIANAPOLIS –The last time the viewing public saw Andrew Luck in real action was in the divisional playoffs at New England.
A rough setback ended a wondrous path Luck has cut in the league over his first 34 games (counting the playoffs), and one of the best-ever young talents at his position is getting better.
"Definitely," said Griff Whalen succinctly if he sees the performer he has known since Stanford improving. "I think he'd agree he's getting better every day and has plenty of room to improve still.
"He definitely approaches it with that attitude. I can definitely see him getting better every day he's out here. That's good news for us here."
Luck has directed 23 overall wins in his short time, taking virtually every snap along the way. His 8,196 yards mark the highest two-year career-opening total in history, while his 46 touchdowns rank among the leaders.
Fans also have seen him become only the ninth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead his team to the post-season twice to start a career.
"I definitely have more of a comfort level," said Luck about starting his third season. "It gets fun. It's still fun. I think it's more fun as you go along, too. It's fun to know the guys, the locker room better. I'm looking forward to everything this year."
MOST STARTING VICTORIES FIRST TWO SEASONS (Since 1950)
MOST PASSING YARDS FIRST TWO SEASONS
Luck assumed a certain spot in the club's culture as a rookie, and it only has grown. Still, he points to teammates like Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne as the standard-setters in the locker room.
The truth is, however, he is becoming a standard that is tough for those trying to defend him.
"No, there is none," said D'Qwell Jackson about how often he feels Luck is not aware what a defense is doing. "Every snap, he's fully attuned to what they're doing and what challenge the defense presents to him, where the pressure's coming from.
"I'm looking at his eyes to see if he can tell where the pressure's coming down. He's been on every, single time."
Jackson's eight years in Cleveland have put him arenas with competitors of every level, yet he pauses on how to counteract Luck.
"Oh, man, where do you begin? Andrew is the master at reading defenses," said Jackson. "What we try to do is not show our hand too early. The short time we've lined up against him, he does a great job of recognizing where the pressure is coming from.
"He understands coverages. We try to disguise what we're doing to try to win the down. With us, it's a guessing game. Andrew's been able to make some great throws. You can see the playmakers across the board, and I haven't seen T.Y. (Hilton) out there. I like what I see."
Whalen says the percentage of time Luck is not able to adjust to a defense pre-snap is "probably pretty low. He gets tricked every once in a while certainly, just like everybody does. I think he usually has a pretty good idea and gets us in the right (formation)."
Luck now is 30 percent through the club's OTA work. He started getting the competitive itch early in the off-season and trained well in advance of the conditioning program's April 21 start.
His college coach, Jim Harbaugh, once depicted Stanford's practicing as "lying in the weeds and sharpening our blades," and Luck is happy to face a defense again in spring work.
"It's great because you can really troubleshoot a lot of stuff," said Luck. "We talk about it a lot on paper, put bags out there (to simulate defenders), especially in protections, 'This guy is going to pick this guy up.' To get them out there to test our rules (is good).
"It's fun to go up against our defense. One, they're great players. Two, they throw a lot at you. Coach Manusky is putting everything in. It's fun to test your rules out, fun to go up against someone else and have a little competition."
Luck kiddingly would not concede the defense is ahead at this point. He is more consumed with landing offensive punches.
It is a point-counter point with a defender like Jackson, who has a regard for the talents of the quarterback of the team he just joined in free agency.
"It's part being student of the game, but it's also understanding how the defense works," said Jackson of Luck's mental sharpness. "What I try to look for from the offense is from formations, how a guy is aligned, body language. It's a game within the game.
"For the short amount of time Andrew's been in the league, he definitely has a good grasp of what he's doing."