WESTFIELD, Ind. – Throughout the offseason and while the cornerstone of a franchise stuck to his calculated, non-throwing regimen, T.Y. Hilton was peppered with the same question.
How long will it take for you and Andrew Luck to reconnect as a receiver-quarterback tandem?
Each time, Hilton would shrug, smile and offer the same response.
The Indianapolis Colts’ four-time Pro Bowl wideout was spot on. Each day at training camp at Grand Park, it’s obvious there’s something special between Luck and Hilton. They’ve picked up where they left off, even though there was nearly a 17-month lull in their pitch-and-catch relationship.
The reason? Being teammates since 2012. As everyone remembers, Luck was the first overall pick of that draft. Hilton came along as a third-round selection.
There have been no shortcuts. Only practice, practice, practice.
“I think there are certain things you can only learn and have it really sink in by doing over and over again,’’ Luck said after Monday morning’s practice. “I’ve been really fortunate to get ten thousands of reps with T.Y. Hilton in games and practices, and certainly Jack (Doyle) to a big degree as well.
“I love playing with T.Y. Like many things, when you take a little sabbatical away from football, I think you realize what you really miss about it and teammates and T.Y. and how special it is to get to play with Vinny (Adam Vinatieri), Anthony (Castonzo) and T.Y. for going into seven years together.’’
A quarterback’s bond with his go-to receiver is special. Think of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. They developed trust and timing on the practice field, and that transferred onto the playing field.
“To have a wideout and to have shared some success and shared some tough defeats and tough losses and to have grown together is fun and special,’’ Luck said. “I’m very thankful I can call him a teammate.’’
Hilton’s signature play with Luck is a corner route, which routinely torches defenses. The timing for that, too, has quickly returned.
“I was a little surprised, actually, that it felt that easy,’’ Luck said. “That’s ten thousand reps, and we’ve got to get better. We’ve got things that we need to work on, certainly individually and also as a unit.’’
The next phase of Luck’s graduated camp progress is honing his touch and velocity on deep passes. To this point, those have been limited.
How does Luck get more comfortable on the deeper throws?
“More reps. Practice,’’ he said. “Doing individual drills on it; that’s a little bit of a focus this week. Getting some more reps with Eric Ebron and Ryan Grant and some of the guys that I don’t quite feel that we’re on the same page 100 percent of the time.
“That’s part of missing an offseason and all of those reps.’’
There wasn’t much internal debate when Luck decided to rid himself of his heavy beard and leave only a mustache.
“I just got tired of the beard,’’ he said.
Luck’s new look swept over social media and elicited varied reviews. Was he surprised so many people cared?
“I don’t know,’’ he replied. “I know Nicole, my girlfriend, cares. She doesn’t like it. But it’s camp so I am not at home.’’
Frank Reich isn’t worrying about Luck’s facial hair.
“Just as long as he can still throw it the way he’s throwing it,’’ he said, “I am happy with whatever facial hair he’s good with.’’
Luck: worn out
Luck returned to the playing field for the first time in 585 days when the Colts met the Seahawks Thursday night in Seattle. He was on the field for 19 offensive snaps, and felt the workload afterward.
“I was tired. I was exhausted,’’ he said. “I think emotionally I was worn out, and honestly it was probably the redeye home after the game. You know it makes you feel things a little extra, turns the volume up. But I felt physically okay, just energy-wise low.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.