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Bruce Arians: Colts’ Andrew Luck ‘could be one of best, if…’

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Bruce Arians was there at the beginning, in 2012 when the Indianapolis Colts transitioned from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck.

He was Luck’s first offensive coordinator, then the Colts’ interim coach for 12 games as Chuck Pagano battled leukemia.

Arians, who brings his Arizona Cardinals into Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, still envisions big things for Luck, once Luck returns to the playing field that is.

However, Arians made it clear Luck can’t do it by himself.

“I think so much of it is the team that’s around you,’’ he said in a Wednesday conference call. “I think he is probably the best rookie quarterback I’ve ever had.

“I’ve never seen anybody do the come-from-behind victories that he could pull off that year. It was kind of a magical year.’’

As a rookie, Luck led the Colts to an 11-5 record and wild-card playoff spot. He directed seven comeback drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, tied for the most since 1970. For his career, Luck has led 18 fourth quarter/OT comeback wins.

“He could be one of the best all-time with the right pieces around him,’’ Arians said. “You’ve got to have a defense, you’ve got to have everything.

“It’s not just him playing. He’s very, very special.’’

Luck’s ascent has stalled, in large part because of injuries. He’s missed 10 games the last two seasons, including nine in 2015 with a lacerated kidney and injuries to his right shoulder, right elbow, right thumb and left ankle. He missed one start last season with a concussion.

Luck’s reunion with Arians Sunday will be limited to hugs prior to the game. He still hasn’t returned to practice and remains in “training mode’’ after undergoing January surgery to repair a torn labrum.

“You hate to see great players not be able to play,’’ Arians said. “I was pulling for him, hoping he would get healthy and have a great season.’’

Luck and Arians have maintained a healthy relationship despite the distance between them.

“Yeah, I text him every week and wish him good luck and we had dinner at the combine (in February) this year,’’ Arians said.

Somewhat surprisingly, Luck is one of just six Colts who remain from Arians’ second stint in Indy in 2012. He previously was Manning’s quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000.

The six holdovers: Luck, cornerback Vontae Davis, placekicker Adam Vinatieri, offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, safety Darius Butler and wideout T.Y. Hilton.

“That’s just how the league is,’’ Arians said. “You can only pay so many guys.

“Both the tight ends are gone (Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener); almost that whole (’12) draft class is gone other than Andrew and T.Y.’’