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Andrew Luck admits underachieving season is ‘tough to swallow’

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The reality of the situation can’t be overstated.

For the first time since his formative days at Houston’s Stratford High School, Andrew Luck faces the task of starting a game with only pride on the line.

No bowl game with the Stanford Cardinal hanging in the balance.

No playoff ramifications for the Indianapolis Colts to consider Sunday when they close a season of underachievement against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Yeah, it is tough to swallow,’’ Luck said Wednesday, adding “it’s weird. It doesn’t feel good.

“It’s not fun in one sense, but the beauty of sports is your win-loss record sort of tells you everything. You don’t have anybody else to blame but yourself if you’re not doing well. And if you’re doing well, then great and you deserve to be in (the playoffs).’’

A few teams that have clinched playoff spots might limit the exposure of their quarterback this weekend, perhaps even hold him out entirely.

Locally, it’s been bandied about on social media and talk radio the Colts should give Luck a baseball cap and clipboard, and start backup Scott Tolzien against the Jaguars. The only thing worse than the season itself would be for the franchise’s most irreplaceable player to be injured in an inconsequential game.

Luck insisted that topic has not been broached this week, and agreed with a reporter’s assessment that such talk is ridiculous.

“I’ve thought about it earlier this week: What’s the motivation to play?’’ he said. “For me, it’s I love football. Another chance to get to do what you love to do with your buddies, with your teammates, with your friends.

“That’s still special. Go out and play.’’

Luck is about to put the finishing touches on one of the more efficient seasons of his five-year career. His 63.8 completion percentage, 7.8 yards per attempt and 96.8 passer rating represent personal bests, and he’s countered 12 interceptions with 29 touchdown passes.

That’s all been accomplished with Colts receivers dropping 25 passes, fifth-most in the NFL, and Luck being sacked 37 times, third-most among QBs.

Luck had no interest in offering a self-critique with one game remaining.

“It’s hard to take a step back and grade or self-scout right now,’’ he said. “Obviously feel like I failed because we haven’t made it to the playoffs and (have) a chance to get the ultimate goal, and that’s probably how everybody feels.’’

Happy birthday:

The NFL’s oldest active player celebrated another birthday Wednesday. Adam Vinatieri turned 44.

“He’s getting old, man. I think he’s, what, 44 today?’’ Luck said. “That’s crazy. That’s crazy.

“But he’s young at heart.’’

Vinatieri is in his 21st season and, somewhat surprisingly, has been with the Colts longer (11 seasons) than the Patriots (10). He’s under contract through 2017 and has made it clear he’ll continue to play as long as he believes he can do so at a high level.

Vinatieri set an NFL record earlier this season by stretching his streak of consecutive made field goals to 44, and has converted 81-of-87 attempts (93.1 percent) over the last three seasons. Since 2012, he’s knocked down 22-of-30 attempts of at least 50 yards.

“It’s just another day,’’ Vinatieri insisted. “You keep stacking up the numbers, but do I feel older today than yesterday? No. It is what it is.’’

Luck was more demonstrative, describing his teammate as “the best, a great teammate, a great friend.

“We probably take it for granted just a little bit because it’s hard to truly appreciate how special he is. I know 20, 30, 40 years from now I’ll be able to sit back and tell my kids I got to play with Adam Vinatieri, the greatest kicker in the NFL and maybe the NFL will ever see.’’