Colts must protect investment in Luck


Luckily for the Colts, they are keeping Andrew Luck.

Moreover, they are keeping him long-term.

The question now is, can they keep him healthy?

They couldn’t do it last year, and there’s no guarantee they can do it this year.

But after finally addressing the offensive line in the draft, there is at least hope they can keep Luck on his feet with a modicum of consistency.

Of the Colts’ seven draft picks, four were spent on offensive linemen. They took Alabama center Ryan Kelly with their No. 1 pick, followed by Texas Tech tackle LeRavin Clark in the third round, North Dakota State tackle Joe Haeg in the fifth and Iowa center Austin Blythe in the seventh.

As evidenced by the volume of picks, the Colts took their chronic offensive line problems seriously. They had no choice.

But taking a problem seriously doesn’t necessarily solve it. And the only way the Colts’ problem gets solved is if a majority of the rookies can play — and not only play, but play at a high level.

It’s doubtful that will happen.

With any luck, Kelly and Clark have what it takes to be immediate starters. If they don’t, the Colts are in trouble.

With even more luck, all four of the rookies are keepers, and depth suddenly becomes a strength. If it doesn’t, the Colts are in trouble.

Injuries up front have been a chronic issue for the Colts throughout the Luck era. It’s part of the reason they can’t run the ball, and it’s a major reason Luck takes a pounding.

That, and a glaring lack of talent along the entire line.

By virtue of his otherwordly ability, Luck survived behind the paper wall and led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, putting up Pro Bowl numbers in the process.

But last year, the lack of protection finally took its toll. Luck’s numbers plummeted as his body broke down. The Colts lost games, ultimately lost Luck and didn’t make the playoffs.

Curiously, if not foolishly, critics wondered if maybe, just maybe, Luck was overrated from the get-go. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t a franchise quarterback. Maybe, just maybe, the first three years of 11-win seasons — with a supporting cast of cast-offs — were a fluke.

Yes, there are those who propagate such nonsense as the season fell apart — conveniently, or stupidly, overlooking the fact Luck played most, if not all, of the season with performance-killing injuries.

Some maladies were publicly declared, but others probably weren’t.

Last year’s injury tally, according to various reports, included a shoulder subluxation, a torn abdominal muscle, torn rib cartilage and a lacerated kidney.

In total, he missed nine games.

Somehow, he actually played in seven.

But that was then. This is now.

Luck is under contract until 2021. His deal is for a reported $140 million, the richest in NFL history. No team, especially not the Colts, throws that kind of money at someone who is not a proven commodity.

Through the first three seasons of his NFL career, Luck proved he’s a winner. He proved he can carry an entire team on his shoulders. He proved he can get it to the playoffs, to the AFC Championship Game and to the Pro Bowl.

He’s also proven what can and will happen if the Colts don’t provide him with at least a small measure of the protection Peyton Manning enjoyed throughout his career in Indy.

The draft was the first step, but it won’t be the last. Offensive lines typically are works in progress. They aren’t built overnight.

But unfortunately for the Colts, that’s the deadline they are working under to keep Luck in one piece and get to the Super Bowl.

Keeping their $140 million investment in one piece, however, is the immediate priority.

Rick Morwick is sports editor for the Daily Journal in Johnson County, a sister paper of Th

e Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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