INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck went through the first four practices of his Indianapolis career this week after finishing his academic work at Stanford.
The top pick in the draft will participate in graduation ceremonies in Palo Alto this weekend to tie a bow on an outstanding career on and off the field, something he has termed a "symbolic closure of that chapter in my life."
Luck's post-graduate work will be an accelerated study over the next six weeks as he gears for his first training camp practice at Anderson University on July 29. He will be absorbing and implementing a lot of material but with a steady approach, it will not be like pulling all-nighters to ace a test.
"There will be a little cramming, but there is time," said Luck. "If you stay vigilant and consistent on every day doing something and trying to take an approach to learning a certain thing one day and the next thing the next day, then hopefully I will be in good shape."
Luck has been under the tutelage of Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians, who has helped sculpt a number of young quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Arians knows there is ground to cover, but that time is available to allow Luck to learn the intricacies of the offense and the nuances of his new teammates.
"He's so smart and has done so much work already that it's really easy. He just lets it flow," said Arians. "He gets it the first time around, so it's not hard at all. You just go out and play and get used to where your guys are. … Those things come with time and progress. We've got plenty of both. We have plenty of time and a lot of progress to make."
Adjusting to the NFL is made easier by the fact that Luck directed a pro-style offense at Stanford. The design there allowed him to be exposed to a sophisticated attack, and he believes it will aid in the transition here.
"I think so. They put multiple plays on our plate as a quarterback at Stanford. Having to check to stuff will definitely help in being able to process things at the line of scrimmage," said Luck. "I do realize this is the NFL and everything is going to happen faster and it's going to be more complicated. There are only so many concepts you can run in football. Definitely (it's going to be) similar concepts, just different words for those things. Trying to find the balance and recognition of, 'This is that, or that is the same thing as this (was at Stanford),' is somewhat of a fun game as well."
Formal work with his veteran teammates is now over until training camp. Luck may work on-site for the next two weeks with the coaches and his rookie teammates. Anything else will have to be done away from the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. The importance of planning those sessions is obvious. More repetitions will ease the challenge he faces.
"Personally, it's (practice) reps. It's getting the continuity with the guys," said Luck. "That's going to be tough because I did miss those weeks. Team-wise, from what I understand because I haven't played a game yet, I think it is a challenge to win NFL games, no matter who you are. Just trying to win games is always a challenge."
Luck has benefited from the presence of two former Stanford teammates, wide receiver Griff Whalen and tight end Coby Fleener. He has two veteran targets in wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie to make learning smoother. Wayne liked what he saw from Luck this week.
"I see a very, very promising quarterback. I can see him going a long way," said Wayne. "He has a strong arm. He pays attention to details. Whenever he makes a mistake, he owns up to it. He's everything you want in a quarterback.
"He's out there having fun, smiling. He's not super serious all the time. Whenever you see a quarterback out there having fun, you have fun. I see him doing real well. I want to make sure to do my part to make him look good."
Collie broke into the league in 2009 with a veteran quarterback in Manning. His reception totals (60, 2009; 58, 2010) thrived in a vibrant offense. Collie now wants to help Luck function smoothly, and he believes it can happen with work.
"(We have to) just get on the same page to get that timing down," said Collie. "(Andrew) has already got it with guys like Griff (Whalen) and Coby (Fleener), so it is important that we take advantage of these next couple of months and get on the same page as him. … I think (it is a process to develop chemistry). It takes time. It takes repetition."
Luck is having fun with the transition. For every bump, there is an achievement. He noticed the growth he made during the four practices this week.
"Absolutely. Being able to go out there and having the confidence to say, 'OK, I know how to run a play. I know how to do this right.' Things start clicking and you (say), 'Okay, I remember this from the day before,' and then you start building on that," said Luck. "There is absolutely a difference, and it is not huge. It is not massive, but there is a difference.
"The work doesn't end (with camp) by any means. It has really, to me, just begun. I'm sure it is going to be a different mind-set for some of the vets, but I think it is cool to see the hunger on all of the guys' faces, how they practice and the example that the older guys set. It has been a lot of fun to be a part of."
One of the most interested observers of the process is General Manager Ryan Grigson. Grigson led the scouting and drafting of Luck as the top pick, and he has been pleased with the early on-field returns.
"You can't help but kind of get magnetized to watching him because he does things so well," said Grigson. "Andrew seems to exceed expectations. I think the sky is the limit. He needs to continue to grow in this offense, which he will. There is no doubt about his arm strength. We knew that from way back. Andrew was really strong in the private workout we had with him, and he showed it out there. He made some impressive throws and showed what we already had seen on tape. It was neat seeing it in a Colts uniform, with a Colts helmet on."