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Colts/NFL

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Associated Press
Colts quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, center, Chandler Harnish, left, and Matt Hasselbeck, run during practice Monday. Following a highly successful rookie season, Luck is answering questions about what he will do for an encore.

Luck stresses improving

Colts QB wants to fulfill team’s lofty prospects

Colts coach Chuck Pagano encourages cornerback Marshay Green during practice at the team’s training camp in Anderson on Monday.

– Andrew Luck has already mastered the turnaround.

Now it’s time to manage those lofty expectations.

After leading the Colts to a nine-game improvement in a record-breaking rookie season, Luck has responded to the biggest question of training camp – what will he do for an encore? – in typical low-key style.

“Get the balls in the receivers’ and playmakers’ hands better. I’m not quite sure what my completion percentage was last year, but it wasn’t good enough,” he said. “When the ball gets into T.Y. (Hilton’s) or Reggie (Wayne’s) or Darrius (Heyward-Bey’s) hands, good things happen.”

Of course, the same could be said of Luck.

When he won the starting job at Stanford in 2009, he took over a program that had endured seven straight losing seasons.

All Luck did was lead the Cardinal to records of 8-5, 12-1 and 11-2 and take them to three straight bowl games for the first time since the 1930s.

The trend continued last season.

With Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano calling the shots in Indianapolis and critics waiting to see whether Luck could live up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick, the rookie responded by taking a team that had gone 2-14 and was considered the worst in football back to the playoffs.

The Colts won 11 times, their highest win total since the 2009 Super Bowl run, giving Luck the distinction of being one of only five quarterbacks since 1966 to win 11 games as a rookie.

He also wound up setting NFL rookie records for yards passing (4,374), attempts (627) and 300-yard games (six). He finished second all-time among NFL rookies in completions (339) and third in touchdown passes (23).

He tied the NFL’s overall mark for most game-winning drives in one season (seven). And when that wasn’t enough to earn the league’s rookie of the year award or win in the playoffs, Luck devoted himself to becoming a better quarterback.

It starts by improving his completion rate (54.1) and reducing the interception total (18).

“When I walked away from that (playoff) loss, it was disappointing. You want to win. You want to keep going,” Luck said.

But the Colts don’t want rely solely on Luck.

So when Arians took his high-risk, high-reward offense to Arizona, Indianapolis hired Luck’s college coordinator, Pep Hamilton, to run its offense. Hamilton has adopted a more conservative approach, blending the short, quick throws used in the West Coast offense with a more traditional power-running game.

General manger Ryan Grigson did his part, too. He signed right tackle Gosder Cherilus from Detroit and guard Donald Thomas from New England to improve the offensive line that yielded 41 sacks last season. Grigson took two more linemen in the draft.

“With each experience and new experience, and each different game and environment he goes into, new hostile environment or whatever, they’re all learning experiences that are going to make him better in the end,” Grigson said. “We feel obviously good about Andrew Luck and where he’s going.”

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