INDIANAPOLIS — The thought of playing against a big puppy of a rookie quarterback in his first game usually has veterans like Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs licking their chops.
However, Bears defenders might want to keep their tongues in their mouths this week.
Andrew Luck is no ordinary rookie.
This quarterback was the first pick in the draft and one of the highest rated prospects on many draft boards since Peyton Manning, the man he is replacing under center for the Colts.
He has prototype size and athleticism, three years of experience as a starter in a pro-style offense at Stanford, intelligence in spades and a feel for the game.
If you didn’t know better, you’d say Luck was born and bred to play football. His father, Oliver Luck, was a quarterback, a second-round pick of the Oilers who had a five-year NFL career, mostly as a backup to Warren Moon.
“Having gone to Peyton’s football camp and having been around him, he has some of his mannerisms,” said Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was Manning’s quarterbacks coach when Manning was a rookie. “He idolized him as a camper and counselor. He is a little further along in some of those things than Peyton was as a rookie because he has learned from him.”
Luck has a pretty solid support system with the Colts. Arians is a 20-year NFL veteran who also has tutored Ben Roethlisberger and Tim Couch.
Luck said that doesn’t mean he is going to be looking for Fleener on ever play. But it does mean he has someone he can count on.
“I know how he cuts, how he gets out of breaks better than any of the other guys by virtue of four years of throwing,” he said.
Luck also can turn to Reggie Wayne, the 12-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowler who previously was Manning’s go-to receiver.
Luck considers Wayne and other Colts veterans Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Adam Vinatieri players who can show him how to win.
“I’ve learned as much from watching Reggie as talking to him,” Luck said. “He doesn’t talk just to talk, which I appreciate. He goes about his work like he’s a second-year guy, not entering his 12th year. He’s great for me to watch and see how he operates, how he recognizes coverages. I have asked him things like, historically how does this defense play? He has been very helpful.”
At this stage of his career, it sounds as if the 22-year-old would be more comfortable with Wayne and other more experienced teammates being perceived as the leaders of the Colts. But he knows it is a mantle that he will have to assume at some point — and some point soon.
“Being a quarterback, plays run through you, so you almost have to assume a sense of leadership,” he said. “But I’m a big believer you have to prove yourself on the field to be an effective leader. I realize I haven’t done that. I haven’t played in a regular-season game. I could go out there and embarrass myself for all I know. Hopefully I don’t and hopefully I continue to grow in that department.”
Luck is not approaching this season as an acclimation period. He says he feels obliged to perform at a high level and win now because some of his older teammates don’t have the luxury of time as he does.
“They can’t wait around four or five years to be good,” he said. “They need to be good now.”