WESTFIELD, Ind. – After watching his most recent team labor under the lights Friday at Grand Park, Jim Irsay offered a 20-minute State of the Colts.
The prevailing theme: the owner likes what he sees.
“We are extremely excited about this season,’’ Irsay said.
At various times, the owner mentioned a “great renaissance period’’ unfolding under the guidance of general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich, and how the Colts have “got a chance for some real, real greatness.’’
“It’s not just competing and it’s not just winning,’’ he said. “I think it’s something that’s going to be pretty special, pretty unusual to watch and witness.
“This is going to be special and somewhat unprecedented, just like looking back to those days when I see 44 and 88 and 87 and 18 and 32 and the list goes on.’’
Irsay’s mind was flashing with memories of Dallas Clark and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James.
But throughout his one-sided give-and-take with the media, Irsay’s attention kept being pulled back to one person: Andrew Luck.
“Honestly, he gives us a chance in every game as I’ve talked about in the past,’’ Irsay said. “I think he has a chance to be one of the greatest players to play the game going forward. He is a special guy in a number of ways. Colts fans should realize how fortunate they are to have a guy as gifted as he is because let me tell you something, he has a fire burning deep in his heart . . . to win and to really kick some butt.’’
Irsay admitted he was surprised when Luck��s January 2017 surgery on his right shoulder eventually forced him to miss all of last season.
“Surprise to him, too,’’ Irsay said.
However, Irsay insisted he’s never doubted whether Luck would return at some point.
“There was a question about how long would the process be for him to be totally OK and be ready to go,’’ he said. “I didn’t have any questions in my mind he was going to be OK to play football again and to play it really well.’’
Luck’s tenacity during his long rehab, Irsay added, “made him a better football player and is going to give us even a better chance for greatness.’’
As Irsay watches Luck throw, he has flashbacks to when Luck wasn’t dealing with the battered labrum in his right shoulder.
“I do see the Andrew Luck we’re used to seeing,’’ he said. “I just don’t have any doubts that when it comes to zinging it 73 yards on the fly, when it comes to making the throw like he did to win the (Kansas City) playoff game which was just on a rope to T.Y. to win that game, I just have no doubt about his arm strength.’’
The combination of a physical football team being constructed by Ballard and Reich and the Luck-led offense resulted in Irsay dusting off an old comment. He envisions “potentially and eventually some Star Wars numbers with a guy like Andrew.’’
This and that
A couple of non-Luck tidbits from Irsay:
- If second-year running back Marlon Mack is given between 16-20 rushing attempts per game, “I could see him approaching 1,500 yards,’’ he said. “Mack has a chance to be a special player this year.’’
The last time a Colts running back reached 1,500 yards? Edgerrin James in 2005 (1,506).
- First-round draft pick Quenton Nelson apparently has a new nickname: Baby Face Nelson. “Reminds me of the old gangster without all the side gear that comes with it,’’ Irsay said.
“I’m going to be watching a guard for the first time in a long time, probably since Chris Hinton.’’
Luck rebounded from a slow start to finish with a flurry Friday evening. After opening 1-of-4 with an interception on a pass off tight end Jack Doyle’s hands, Luck finished 12-of-16 with the one interception in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.
Luck capped his evening’s work with a touchdown pass to K.J. Brent – it covered about 50 yards – on a deep post. Brent beat cornerback Quincy Wilson.
As Brent was trotting back to the huddle, Luck raced down field and chest-bumped him at the goal line.
Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo left practice early after suffering a hamstring injury. It’s worth noting he opened camp on the non-football injury list with the same type of injury.
Among players missing practice were defensive end Kemoko Turay (knee), wideout Reece Fountain (knee) and cornerback D.J. White (groin).