By GEORGE BREMER
For all of his gifts on the football field, Andrew Luck can be just as adept away from the gridiron.
Take Tuesday’s performance in the media tent at Anderson University for example. The second-year quarterback was asked for his reaction to owner Jim Irsay’s Monday tweet criticizing the team’s “crap performance” during a 44-20 preseason loss against the Buffalo Bills.
Luck — who said last week he hates to lose at anything, including board games at home — managed to express support for his owner without coming close to throwing his teammates under the bus.
“You couldn’t ask for a better owner, I think, in this league,” Luck said. “You can tell his heart is in the Colts 100 percent, and his players, I think, at least I do personally, really appreciate how much he cares. If that’s the way he felt, then I think more power to him for making those thoughts known. We obviously don’t want to disappoint him or any of the fans here in Indianapolis or Colts (fans) in general around the nation.”
Whether spurred by Irsay’s challenge or not, there was a palpable disgust over Sunday’s performance hanging over training camp Tuesday.
The Colts’ next game will be played on national television against the New York Giants, and head coach Chuck Pagano promised viewers across the country will see a different Indianapolis team.
“I fully expect this team to bounce back from Sunday’s performance,” he said. “Again, there were a lot of good things there (against Buffalo), but it’s a great opportunity. Again, national television, under the lights, everybody’s watching. So we all expect, every man in that locker room, all the coaches, we expect to go play and play well.”
Improved health certainly will play a role in that. The Colts started the game with 18 inactive players against the Bills, including five safeties, and they lost four more players during the contest.
Some of those men — including starting inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner — returned to the practice field Tuesday. Others are expected back throughout the week, and that should improve the play of the defense and depth throughout the roster.
But there were plenty of issues on the field, as well.
The first-team offense failed to score on its two drives, though it was deep in Buffalo territory on the last possession. That’s when tight end Coby Fleener fumbled after a 23-yard pass play and ended the drive at the Bills’ 24-yard line.
Fleener — who later was diagnosed with a concussion and missed Tuesday’s practice — also had a pass from second-string quarterback Matt Hasselbeck knocked out of his hands in the end zone by Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Those two plays represent at least 10 points left on the field by the Indianapolis offense, and there were other missed opportunities throughout the game.
“Offensively, I feel not only ones, twos and threes, everybody out there, I feel like we definitely could have performed better,” Luck said. “I know on the plays on our end, we would have loved to score touchdowns. You don’t want to turn the ball over when you get in the red zone. And that first drive, you want to put something together and convert a third down, a couple third downs. But such is the way it is. We’ll learn from it and get better this week.”
The Colts have three more days to get better in training camp.
The secluded environment with players staying together in dorms is conducive to such improvement. The focus is entirely on football without many outside distractions.
And the concentration is narrow. There’s no game planning yet and little dissection of the opposition. As Luck likes to say, it’s still really about the Colts.
“You’re sort of living, eating, breathing football,” Luck said. “So improvement (comes with that). I think we really are still working on personal improvement. What areas can I perform better in, technique-wise? Then obviously as the weeks go on, you get closer to the regular season, you start focusing more on the teams you are going to end up playing. So we’re excited for a good last week here at Anderson.”