Andrew Luck will not suit up for the Colts this season, and head coach Frank Reich wants his Indianapolis locker room to embrace the reality and rally behind backup-turned-starter Jacoby Brissett.
“On one hand, we can respect and honor the player and the teammate (Luck) was,” Reich said. “At the same time, we can share an excitement and an enthusiasm about the team we have going forward and the journey ahead of us. Ultimately, it’s not how good any one player is, it’s not. It’s about how good we are as a team.”
Luck announced his retirement from the NFL at age 29, ending a collective pining from Colts fans for his return from a latest injury setback — to his ankle/calf — in time for Week 1 of the regular season on Sept. 8.
Luck will not be lining up for the Colts or any other team this season or the foreseeable future, not after officially announcing his retirement over the weekend and passing the proverbial baton to Brissett. Brissett is 5-12 as a starter, including 4-11 with the Colts in 2017 when Luck was out for the season with a shoulder injury. It was that volatile cycle of “injury, pain, rehab,” in Luck’s words, that led Brissett to this point.
“It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions,” Brissett said. “Main thing is not being able to see Andrew every day. Ups and downs, but it’s on the way up now. … I was shocked (at Luck’s retirement). Then we had a long conversation. It was emotions going back and forth. You sit down with him and you understand his decision. He’s one of my good friends. It’s tough. He was like smiling at the end. That’s what helped me gain clarity and understand the situation. Seeing him smiling. I wish him the best. We’ll talk long after our football careers.”
Reich himself was a backup quarterback in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and knows what it’s like to deliver when your number is called. He’s also helped coach a backup into a starring role. As quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reich aided in readying Nick Foles to replace injured starter Carson Wentz and eventually beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
In this particular instance, the injury history of Luck helped Brissett get in plenty of work with the first-team offense. Reich estimated Brissett has taken more than 1,200 snaps with the starters since offseason workouts began.
“You can just feel his presence in the huddle and on the field,” Reich said. “The confidence that’s he’s had, the chemistry with his receivers. We all know Andrew and (wide receiver) T.Y. (Hilton) had a unique chemistry and connection. I can feel that developing. That’s been very important that Jacoby has taken all those reps.”
Hilton and Brissett were among the few who knew Luck was planning to address the team in the locker room on Saturday night. Hilton said the entire locker room, with more than 100 people inside, was dead silent during Luck’s comments that left most of the club in utter shock and disbelief.
“He’s ready,” Hilton said Monday of Brissett. “And I know he can’t wait to go out there and show he’s ready.”