NFL Nation: Andrew Luck

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.

Camp preview: Indianapolis Colts

July, 17, 2014
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» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation’s Mike Wells examines the three biggest issues facing the Indianapolis Colts heading into training camp.

Khaled Holmes: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson took a big gamble in the offseason by not heavily pursuing a veteran center. He signed Phil Costa, who was beaten out by a rookie in Dallas, only to have the veteran suddenly retire before ever playing a snap for the Colts. Even with Costa on the roster, the plan all along for the Colts was for Holmes to start. This is the same Khaled Holmes who managed to play a total of 12 snaps as a rookie, despite poor play by Samson Satele at the position last season. Grigson has constantly defended Holmes ever since, pointing out that the second-year player would be his starter. The goal is for Holmes to team with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Holmes needs to have good chemistry with Luck and control the line of the scrimmage, all while making sure the rest of the offensive linemen know the correct calls. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player who is basically a rookie, especially when you think about the expectations the Colts have this season.

Safety: Similar to his decision at center, Grigson didn’t look far outside the organization to address a position of need. Veteran Antoine Bethea left Indianapolis to sign with San Francisco, and it appeared Delano Howell was the frontrunner to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Things seem to change in the middle of June, when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams. Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year NFL career, but even though he says he feels like he’s 26 years old, he’s actually 33. Howell has started only four games in his career. And speaking of Landry, he didn’t exactly ease anybody’s mind about whether he’ll be able to rebound from a disappointing first season with the Colts. He didn’t attend any of the voluntary offseason workouts, then showed up at the mandatory minicamp with what was described as a soft-tissue injury. While the offseason workouts are voluntary, it would have helped Landry if he had at least attended a few of the sessions. Grigson and Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn’t criticize Landry for not showing up, but they did point out their preference of wishing he was in attendance. If anything it would have showed that Landry cared about working on chemistry with the rest of his defensive teammates. There are too many questions surrounding the safety position on a defense that was way too inconsistent last season.

Trent Richardson: The excuses are no longer available for Richardson in the Colts organization. The ready-made line of, “Richardson is still learning the offensive system,” is in the trash on the curb. Richardson, who the Colts acquired from Cleveland just days before Week 3 last season, has had an entire offseason to learn the playbook. Now he can use his natural instincts when he’s on the field, instead of constantly trying to remember the plays. The Colts clearly are trailing the Browns in the who-got-the-better-of-the-trade race. Cleveland turned the No. 26 pick into hotshot quarterback Johnny Manziel after using it to trade up to No. 22. The Colts? All Richardson gave them was 2.9 yards a carry and a demotion to the second unit last season. Richardson and the Colts have to hope this season is different. The pressure is on Richardson, because Grigson said earlier this year he would make the trade again if put in the same position. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, had offseason shoulder surgery and will head into training camp as the starter, with Ahmad Bradshaw ready to take some snaps from him if he struggles.

Colts' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
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Quarterback Andrew Luck isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He’ll remain in an Indianapolis Colts uniform for the foreseeable future.

Luck
 Owner Jim Irsay will make sure of that.

The Colts look at Luck in the same way they looked at Peyton Manning (minus having to part ways with him at some point). They want to keep Luck under center and have him lead the Colts to the Super Bowl multiple times.

If the first two years are in any indication, the Colts are in a good position to accomplish those things with Luck. The only real question -- one that has been burning since Luck’s rookie year -- is whether he will be as durable as Manning because of poor offensive line play?

Luck has been sacked so many times (73) during the first two years of his career that you’re left wondering at times how he has yet to miss any snaps in a game because of an injury. He has shaken off countless hits to lead the Colts to 22 regular-season victories and three playoff games in just two seasons.

 Still, the Colts are flirting with danger when it comes to their franchise player because of poor pass protection.

The Colts are set at tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus on the left and right side, respectively.

The interior part of the line has remained poor, however.

Luck has a new center in Khaled Holmes, who played only 12 snaps last season. Hugh Thornton is the frontrunner to retain one of the guard spots, while the other guard position is uncertain. Rookie Jack Mewhort could end up starting at guard. If so, Luck and the interior part of the offensive line will grow together. Luck, in just his third season, is the elder statesmen of the group. Holmes and Thornton are both in their second season, and Mewhort has yet to play an NFL snap.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is headed into his third season. He has played in three playoff games -- winning one -- and has had two offensive coordinators in his first two seasons.

Luck
Luck also has 22 regular-season victories, an arm, mobility and the will the win. That is why ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando, with the help of anonymous league insiders Insider, views the Colts’ franchise player as a top-five quarterback in the league.

Luck is ranked higher than fellow quarterbacks like Manning. No, not that Manning, but Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The quarterbacks are broken up into four tiers. Luck is in Tier 1 with all future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He joins Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in that top tier. Impressive company for a third-year player.

Here is what Sando wrote about Luck:

"Luck doesn't have the track record of the other Tier 1 QBs, and there was a clear gap in the voting between him and the top four. But people in the league love him almost unconditionally, and 14 of the 26 voters insisted upon putting him in the top tier (each of the top four received 25 of 26 Tier 1 votes).

The evaluators think Luck has carried a subpar roster to a 22-10 record without much help. They see no limitations. They have zero doubt about his long-term stardom and felt strongly enough to give him 14 first-tier votes even while acknowledging he is below the Big Four at this early stage. Every other QB fell into the tier in which he received the most votes, and so shall Luck, even if his Tier 1 designation feels a bit premature."

The Colts' offensive line was atrocious Luck’s rookie season and only a little better last season. Luck didn’t have a reliable receiver to turn to outside of T.Y. Hilton after Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL in Week 7 last season. The running game? That was a problem, too.
IRVING, Texas -- When it comes to ranking quarterbacks, the debates can be endless and sometimes pointless, but Mike Sando took the question to people inside the NFL with his latest ESPN Insider piece. Insider

Romo
It might surprise some of you that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished tied for eighth in the tier-rankings of 26 general managers, former GMs, pro personnel people, coordinators, head coaches, position coaches and an executive.

Four players tied for the top spot in Sando’s rankings, using a 1 for the best at the position and a 5 for the worst. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees shared the top spot. Andrew Luck was fifth.

Romo checked in after Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and tied with Russell Wilson and Eli Manning in the second tier.

Here’s what Sando wrote and the insiders had to say about Romo:
T-8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (2.23 average rating)

A few evaluators questioned whether Romo had the mind-set to play at the highest level consistently. It's a familiar refrain in league circles, a feeling that Romo is an undisciplined QB playing for an undisciplined organization with a poorly constructed roster.

"People want to knock him," one GM responded, "but the guy has talent and is one of the top 10 starters in the league."

Romo is 34 years old and coming off back surgery, but he still could be in line for a "monster" season, one evaluator said. "But I absolutely believe they will not win big with him. As soon as he decides it's a clutch moment, his brain goes elsewhere. He loses focus and tries to create something."




What’s funny is that the GM and evaluator have the same thoughts of those who love Romo or loathe Romo who are not on the inside. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports went so far as to call Romo “underrated” in his yearly rankings, which drew the ire of some.

The “clutch” talk has been a big thing around Romo since the bobbled snap in 2006 against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. That talk is always followed up with Romo having the best fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history (102.4) and his 20 come-from-behind wins.

Those numbers aren’t hollow, although with one playoff win to his credit that’s what his detractors will say.

That’s why this debate is a good one. Both sides can declare victory with their points. If Romo were to ever win a Super Bowl -- or perhaps just get to one -- then the perception would change entirely.

Projecting Colts starters

June, 30, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot can happen for the Indianapolis Colts between now and Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Injured players become completely healthy. Healthy players get injured. Projected starters get beat out by a teammate.

But that hasn't stopped fans from asking about what the Colts' depth chart will look like this season. It's July and players, coaches and front office officials are taking one last vacation before reporting for the start of training camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23. So for the next two days I'll take a shot at who I think the starters will be.

We'll start with the offense today. We'll do the defense on Tuesday.

Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: This is self-explanatory. Go ahead and keep Luck's name there as long as he's healthy.

Running back: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Stanley Havili

Comment: As I mentioned last week when I did position battles, Richardson will be given the first shot at starting because of his talent and the last thing the Colts want to show is that their trade for him last September was a failure.

Receiver: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks

Comments: The pressure isn't on Wayne to be the Reggie Wayne of a few years ago because he has help with Hilton and Nicks at the position, but Wayne is out to prove that he can still produce at the age 35 and after tearing his ACL.

Tight end: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen

Comment: Allen is a better all-around tight end than Fleener, but he missed all but one game last season because of a hip injury.

Offensive line: (LT) Anthony Castonzo, (LG) Jack Mewhort, (C) Khaled Holmes, (RG) Hugh Thornton, (RT) Gosder Cherilus

Comment: The only position really up in the air at the moment is left guard. Mewhort currently has the edge because Donald Thomas didn't take part in offseason workouts and he moved ahead of Lance Louis during organized team activities (OTAs).
INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie Wayne has watched the play at least 10 times. He starts in motion, comes across the middle of the field wide open. Haul in the pass and he’ll be celebrating in the end zone seconds later as the Indianapolis Colts would have extended their lead over the Denver Broncos to 13 points last October.

But the pass from quarterback Andrew Luck was underthrown. Wayne, like he’s done countless times during what will end up being a Hall of Fame career, attempts to make an impressive catch. His foot, according to Wayne, got caught in the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, causing him to tear the ACL in his right knee.

While others may cringe looking at such a bad injury, Wayne has looked at it with a straight face, the same type of seriousness he’s taken over the past eight months while working his way back from the knee injury.

[+] EnlargeReggie Wayne
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesColts WR Reggie Wayne is looking forward to proving all of his doubters wrong.
“I wanted to see it because I’m going to do that same thing a million more times,” Wayne said. “It’s something I want to see and I’m going to keep watching it until I’m back out there.”

Wayne’s road to recovery from what he revealed for the first time Thursday as his third ACL tear has been more challenging than the other two.

He’s not the same 20-year-old kid at the University of Miami whose body allowed him to recover more quickly. Wayne’s 35 years old and his NFL career is winding down. His body has gotten to the point where it reacts to the weather. Colder days make it tougher on him than when he has beads of sweat running down the side of his face from the sweltering heat.

“Back in ‘98, I was a young buck,” Wayne said. “I knew I had some time. Now I’m 35, I don’t have any more redshirt eligibility left, so it’s been different. At the same time, it’s been humbling. But for some strange reason, I’m a little hungrier now than I was then.”

Wayne felt like he left his teammates hanging because he wasn’t out there with them for the final 11 games of the season. But as time went by, he had a premonition, one that kind of leaves you scratching your head because an ACL injury isn’t easy to overcome. He believes the injury helped the rest of his body.

“This is probably the healthiest I’ve been since '02,” Wayne said. “One blessing I do take out of last year is that maybe it was time to let my body heal. I took pride in being out there in every game. I tried my best to not leave any T’s uncrossed. Maybe it was time for me to sit back a little bit and get my body back together and I’ve done that.”

Wayne had no problem admitting that the media and doubters fueled him as he rehabbed his knee before anybody showed up at the team’s facility in the morning and long after they left in the evening.

Is Wayne done? Can Wayne regain his form? Will Wayne hurt the Colts more than help them?

Those are questions going through many people's heads but they won’t be answered until Wayne officially returns to the field. He meets with Dr. John Uribe in Miami on a regular basis. His most recent visit didn’t involve any fluid in his knee and that’s why Wayne believes he’s on his way.

Wayne’s been running routes at the team’s facility, but that’s obviously different than doing it with pads on, with a defensive back jamming him at the line of scrimmage or running an out pattern with a cornerback draped on his back.

“I feel like I have nothing to prove to anybody,” Wayne said. “I know what I can do. Guys in this locker room know what I can do. Now it’s time to show the first-timers who have not seen me play, the ones that keep calling me Mr. Wayne, ones that say they played with me on 'Madden.' There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be ready [for training camp] in July.”

Wayne is headed into the final year of his contract. He doesn’t know how many more years he plans to play, instead preferring to use the phrase “day to day.” Just know, Wayne plans to make 2014 a memorable season because the clock is counting down on him. Luck recently referred to Wayne as a "freak" because of the things he's been able to do.

“I know what my age is, I know when something is against me,” he said. “I’m geeked about being able to show everybody what I can do at 35.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- The final significant days of the offseason for the Indianapolis Colts (outside of when commissioner Roger Goodell disciplines owner Jim Irsay) starts Tuesday at the team's facility when they begin the first of three days of mandatory minicamp before breaking up for the final time prior to reporting for training camp July 23.

Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe competition at running back, including Trent Richardson, won't be decided in this week's mandatory minicamp.
Offensive line battle: You can go ahead and put Khaled Holmes down as the starting center, but with Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) still working his way back, the starting guard positions could end up taking some time. Hugh Thornton, who took Thomas's spot after he was injured last season, has been working with the first team at right guard during organized team activities. Lance Louis had been working with the first team at left guard, but rookie Jack Mewhort, the Colts' second-round pick, moved ahead of him last week. The competition will intensify during training camp.

Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.

Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.

The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."

Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?

Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).
Bush
Wayne
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne has already let it be known that he wants to prove the doubters who question whether he can return to form at age 35 following ACL surgery wrong.

Wayne isn't taking part in the team's organized team activities as expected, but quarterback Andrew Luck has seen enough of his go-to receiver to make him believe that Wayne will be just fine.

"His attitude is awesome," Luck said. "He's around, he's coaching, he's talking football. I feel like I know Reggie. He's going to be back better than ever doing things that the 35-plus years olds shouldn't be allowed to do on this earth. He's a freak."

The plan all along was to bring Wayne, who tore his ACL in Week 7 against Denver last season, back slowly. He was cleared for football activities in late April but he's not expected to take the field with his teammates until training camp. Players report for camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Like every NFL front office official, coach, player or fan, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck heard about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's new, lucrative $110 million deal.

Jones
Kaepernick
Luck
Luck, like he has always done, isn't worried about what that means for him once he's eligible for a contract extension next year.

"As a football fan I pay attention. I think it's weird to talk about other people's contracts,” Luck said during a meeting with the media at the team's complex Thursday. “It's weird. What's his business is his business, but as a football fan, you go 'that's awesome.' I got to know Colin in the Bay Area, so I'm happy for him. As it pertains to me and the future, it's for my agent to discuss. It's not the time or place to think about that.”

It's not surprising that Luck didn't have much to say about Kaepernick's new deal. The Colts quarterback doesn't operate like that. His focus is strictly on what it'll take for Indianapolis to take the next step in the AFC next season.

Kaepernick led the 49ers on deep playoff runs in his two seasons as the team's starting quarterback, including a trip to Super Bowl XLVII.

Luck, despite dealing with poor offensive line play and an inconsistent defense, has a 22-10 record and led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Luck and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson could get deals between $24 million to $25 million a year when they get their new deals.
A mega-contract shouldn’t be on his mind right now. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has other things to worry about: improving in the pocket, returning to the path he was on pre-knee injury, winning games.

Yet, after San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick signed his contract Wednesday -- receiving $61 million guaranteed, though the breakdown of the contract is favorable to the Niners making that guaranteed amount a bit dubious -- it’s fair to wonder what the other young quarterbacks might receive next spring. That is, if teams decide to give them a new contract rather than just extend their rookie deals by one year, which they can do with first-round picks such as Griffin and Andrew Luck. Russell Wilson? As a third-round pick he'll get a new deal.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Richard LipskiRobert Griffin III has a lot to prove coming off a subpar season.
For Griffin, though, the path is less clear than it is with the others. Wilson won a Super Bowl, though Seattle’s defense was the star. But he’s also a good quarterback. Luck steadily improved and led his team to the playoffs his first two years.

It’s not a huge leap of faith to say Griffin will return to the path many expected him to be on pre-knee injury. He’s had a good offseason; he’s a year removed from surgery and ditched the knee brace and he no longer has friction with the head coach or offensive coordinator. Toss in the fact that Griffin has more explosive talent around him and it’s less of a stretch. He’s still a maturing player in many ways, but his drive is impressive. It would be silly to write him off after last season.

But he’s already had two ACL surgeries on his right knee and he still has to prove he can beat a team consistently with his arm. The read option is a nice change-up, but the long-term money is earned in the pocket. Yes, he’s also coming off a subpar second season. In fairness, the lack of an offseason hurt him considerably. The mistake made by many (myself included) was in thinking last August that it wouldn’t have the impact it did. I can tell you that while certain people were bad-mouthing Griffin behind the scenes late in the season, questioning his ability to improve in certain areas, those same people said not a word about these same things, say, in August. Not a word.

The Redskins don’t have to do anything with Griffin’s contract for a couple of years if they prefer. They could extend the deal next offseason (that’s what Carolina did with Cam Newton; he’ll receive $14.87 million this season) and then worry about the next contract after the 2016 season. By then they’ll have a great idea of where Griffin is headed.

It’s tough to compare Griffin to Kaepernick because the circumstances are different. The latter is 17-6 as a starter and 3-1 on the road in the postseason, having played in a Super Bowl. Kaepernick has a much better defense around him -- the Niners were a good team before he started a game. But he was hurt last year by not having good receivers. Griffin took a team that had finished in last place three straight years to an NFC East title. There were other factors, but he was a primary one, injecting a massive dose of hope.

Their stats are comparable. Griffin tops him in several areas, but Kaepernick has a better passer rating. In 29 starts, Kaepernick has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 5,046 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a 93.8 rating. In 28 starts, Griffin has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 6,403 yards, 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a 91.5 rating.

At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Kaepernick is built for a long career. The concern some had about Griffin coming out of college is that, at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he might not be durable. It's still up for debate. Both players are not finished products. Some of the knocks on Griffin -- the need to better anticipate throws, failing to throw to a player who appeared open -- are things I saw from Kaepernick and Wilson at times during the past season and postseason. It just didn’t hurt them as much because their teams could still win without them having great games. (Kaepernick, by the way, has three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 1-3 record vs. Seattle).

Kaepernick did excel against the blitz this past season, something Griffin did not do after doing just that as a rookie.

But Kaepernick earned his money. The next wave of quarterbacks will soon be in position to get theirs. Whether Griffin gets that sort of cash is up to him, of course. Play well and the franchise that gave up a lot to get him will pay a lot to keep him around.

The Redskins have time to make a decision. But Griffin needs to lay a strong case for himself this fall.
INDIANAPOLIS – It wouldn't be surprising if the reaction to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's new $110 million deal, which includes a record $61 million guaranteed, went something like this from the important figures inside the Indianapolis Colts' organization:

Owner Jim Irsay started squirming after realizing he'll likely have to pay quarterback Andrew Luck even more than that.

General manager Ryan Grigson was probably like, "This is why I had to be frugal and not free-spend during the offseason."

Luck, in typical Luck fashion, probably didn't have much reaction because he doesn't operate like that.

You can spend plenty of time debating whether Kaepernick is worth the contract. You can't knock somebody for getting paid. But no matter how you look at Kaepernick's huge payday, just know that the Colts should prepare themselves because they'll have to pay Luck even more money than what the 49ers quarterback got once he's eligible for a contract extension next year.

Why?

Luck is a better quarterback.

I know, I know, Kaepernick plays in the toughest division in the NFL -- the NFC West -- and he's been to the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship Game twice in as many seasons.

But just like the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson, Kaepernick gets help from a very good defense and running game to assist with the passing game.

Luck?

The Colts' defense has been a weak link outside of Robert Mathis' 19.5 sacks last season.

A running game?

Now that's funny.

Luck has overcome those flaws to lead the Colts to 22 victories and the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. He's done it with some late-game heroics, too.

Kaepernick is 21-8 as the 49ers' starting quarterback. Luck is 22-10 and 1-2 in the playoffs.

Kaepernick has thrown for 5,046 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his career. Luck has thrown for 8,196 yards, 46 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in his career.

Grigson knows at some point, he'll have to pay Luck and some of the other players in the 2012 draft class. He openly said so during the combine in February.

Here's a breakdown of guaranteed money given to active quarterbacks:

Kaepernick: $61 million
Matt Ryan: $59 million
Tom Brady: $57 million
Drew Brees: $55 million
Tony Romo: $55 million
Aaron Rodgers: $54 million
Jay Cutler: $54 million

Kaepernick set the bar with the contract Wednesday afternoon. Now you should expect Luck to surpass it.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A common phrase used by the Indianapolis Colts last season was: power running game.

They had do-everything quarterback Andrew Luck, but they insisted on a being a run-first team. The only sign of that working happened in their Week 3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Injuries and lack of running game from Trent Richardson and Donald Brown forced the Colts to basically become a no-huddle offensive team by the end of the season.

They started the season mixing in some two-back sets. They ended it basically using one-back, one-tight-end, three-receiver sets.

Luck
New season, new mind frame from offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

"We’re going to be a score-first team," Hamilton said. "We’re going to do whatever we need to do to score one more point than our opponent."

Don’t kid yourself; Hamilton won't allow Luck to drop back in the pocket and fling the ball downfield -- even if he does have plenty of weapons at his disposal -- 50 times per game. The Colts will still run the ball, which is why they have three backs they think will carry the load.

But as Hamilton said, it’s all about scoring more points than the opponent, and that likely will end up being with Luck doing what he does best: using his arm.

The Colts threw the ball 582 times and ran it 409 times last season.

"Our mentality has not changed; we have to be physical at the point of attack. We have to try and knock people off the ball and wear them down physically," Hamilton said. "We have to have a sense of balance and still have a physical mentality, make up going into games so we can wear our opponents down how we see fit."

Hamilton had an opportunity to leave the NFL to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, but he decided to return to the Colts because he believes in the product they have in the organization. He’s back for Year 2 as an NFL offensive coordinator, and instead of being forced to dig deep into the playbook to find plays to suit their offensive personnel, Hamilton should have a cupboard full of healthy players next season barring any setbacks with their return from injuries.

By Week 7 last season, the Colts were without tight end Dwayne Allen, guard Donald Thomas, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and receiver Reggie Wayne for the season. Those players were replaced by Jack Doyle, Weslye Saunders, Hugh Thornton, Brown, Richardson, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen.

No offense to those players, but that’s a drop-off for Hamilton, who at times made some questionable play calls to work with.

Things should be different this season for him and the Colts.

"Not only do we have some guys that are proven playmakers in the National Football League, but we have an opportunity to build on what we accomplished last year and hopefully take that next step," Hamilton said. "It’ll be great to have Reggie, Dwayne and all those guys available to see if we can go out and accomplish our ultimate goal.

"The toughest part [of last season] was making sure that we had the packages available to accommodate the personnel changes that were made from week to week. When I say personnel changes, I’m talking about the attrition, the attrition that we had to deal with. Other than that, it wasn’t tough. When you have Andrew Luck, that really gives you an ability to adapt to whatever the circumstances are and have a chance to be successful."
Here's a Memorial Day edition of the mailbag:
 
 

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis stood at his locker Wednesday afternoon and spent several minutes talking to the media for the first time since being suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league's drug policy.

Mathis apologized to his teammates and told them, "Sorry, and I’ll be back."

His teammates accepted his apology and remained confident in one of their leaders.

"I know who he is," Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. "I have no doubt the kind of person, the kind of character, what kind of man he is. Robert is a man. He owned up to his mistake.

"He addressed us, first and foremost, as a family. That’s what we are, a unit, a team. As long as we have his back -- and he knows that -- then everything else will work out."

Mathis is allowed to participate in all offseason workouts, as well as preseason practices and games, while suspended. He'll miss the Colts' first four regular-season games and is eligible to return the day after the Sept. 28 game against Tennessee.

As they’ve always done when they lose a teammate or coach for a period of time, the Colts said it’s the "next man up" to fill the void in Mathis’ absence.

"I understand [the suspension is] all set in stone, so there’s nothing you can say or do that’s going to change anything," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "I know we’re not wasting our breath talking about it. We realize the circumstance. We realize we’re going to be without our best player, probably, for the first four games.

"Guys are going to have to step up. We’ll manage, we’ll do our best, and I think we have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys in this locker room and this building to pick up the slack."

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