ANDERSON, Ind. – Andrew Luck drew praise from his new coach, his new team owner and the usually reserved Tony Dungy after his first full-speed workout.
The Indianapolis Colts' new franchise quarterback completed 27 of 32 attempts Sunday, and made it looking easy, too.
"I think that's what impressed me the most, to see the decision-making and the lack of any indecisiveness," said Dungy, the former Colts coach. "He looked like a third or fourth-year guy in this first practice. I've seen him play twice, Oregon against Stanford, and so I saw it from that perspective and you feel like, 'Well he's been running this offense that he's been comfortable with'. But to see it here, and knowing that he's had a condensed offseason program too because of the school's set up there, it was very impressive."
Nobody expected Luck to be perfect on Day 1. He wasn't.
The former Stanford star, drafted first overall, threw two interceptions, one off a tipped ball. He also overthrew a wide open Donnie Avery, who got behind two defenders and was sprinting down the sideline.
Given the circumstances, it was still a solid debut. Luck looked relaxed and precise throughout the two-plus hour workout and showed no sign of being behind after missing so many mini-camp workouts. NFL rules do not permit rookies to practice at the team complex, except for a three-day rookie mini-camp, until the school's semester ends. It kept Luck away from Indy until early June.
But Luck performed like he hadn't missed a thing. At times, he zinged balls over the outstretched fingertips of defenders and drew loud roars from a crowd estimated to be roughly 3,000. At other times, he simply read the coverage and connected with open receivers. In all, only three balls during seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills hit the ground and the offense looked sharp.
"That's a credit to the offensive guys, the offensive coaches," first-year coach Chuck Pagano said. "You can see from today the offense obviously stayed in their playbook, the retention has been excellent and they came out here and moved the ball up and down the field pretty much at will today."
The positive reviews were a stark contrast from Saturday night when veterans instructed the No. 1 overall draft pick to stand up and sign a song, a rookie tradition in Indy.
Luck chose the John Denver hit "Country Roads" because he said it was the only song he knew the words to. Teammates weren't so sure he knew anything about music after hearing the rendition, which by all accounts was booed mercilessly. Punter Pat McAfee, who played at West Virginia where Luck's father, Oliver, is the athletic director, even tried to help.
That didn't work, either.
"It was awful," Pagano said. "I'm glad he's not doing that for a living because he wouldn't have gotten the signing bonus he got here. It was a great effort, though."
Luck started his first day at training camp with a light walkthrough that served as little more than a warm-up act for the afternoon, the first workout the public could attend.
Some came to Anderson University, a Division III school about 30 miles northeast of the team complex, wearing No. 12 jerseys. Afterward, hundreds scrambled to the 50-yard line seeking an autograph from a quarterback covered in sweat on another 90-degree day in Central Indiana. Luck signed for about 20 minutes.
In between, he put on a memorable performance.
While the challenges are bound to get tougher when he starts facing exotic blitzes and new defenses, those standing inside the Colts' rope line liked what they saw.
"My impression with him is that he is just very strong and steady and is working toward limiting the turnovers, the interceptions, working toward really being patient and not feeling he has to do it all on his own," team owner Jim Irsay said after watching his newest multi-million dollar investment. "He is not expected to win it all on his own. I think whenever Peyton struggled and had his worst periods of interception streaks or whatever is when he tried to do too much."
Nobody has a tougher crowd to please than Luck, who must replace the long-time face of the Colts' franchise.
While the Stanford grad has been billed as the most NFL-ready quarterback since Indy took Peyton Manning with the No. 1 overall pick in 1998, it's easy to forget that Manning's record-setting rookie season also included only three victories and a rookie record 28 interceptions.
So Pagano, Irsay and others are pleading for patience.
"Everyone knows when you go with a rookie quarterback, it's difficult," Irsay said. "But there have been some cases like Andrew Dalton last year played pretty well. I think the thing with Andrew was the guys around him."
The similarities between Manning and Luck are striking.
Both had fathers who were NFL quarterbacks, both left their home states to attend college, wound up as Heisman Trophy runner-ups and were taken No. 1 overall after sticking around school one season longer than the "experts" expected.
And, of course, both were panned by their teammates for their lack of musical skills.
"Well, neither one of them could (sing) but that's OK," Irsay said. "We don't go by tone or anything for quarterbacks."
The Colts would rather win games, which is one reason Irsay invited Dungy to come to camp.
Dungy has the most coaching wins (92) in franchise history, and Irsay asked Dungy to advise Pagano about making the move from assistant coach to head coach, Luck on the transition to the NFL and asked him to speak to the team about community work.
It was the first time Dungy attended a full football practice since he retired after the 2008 season, and the NBC studio analyst reiterated he's not looking for a new job.
"We did the Super Bowl here (in Indianapolis) for NBC, and we did our last 15 minutes of the pregame on the sideline," Dungy said. "I said, 'If this doesn't get me introductions and everything for the Super Bowl, I'm going to be OK.' I made it through that, so I think I'm OK."
Instead, he'd rather watch Luck take command of the Colts offense.
"I got a chance to meet Andrew (Luck), watch him, see the decisions he's making and just the command of the huddle and command of the field," Dungy said. "They're going to be in good hands. They're going to be in good hands for a long time."
Notes: Backup linebacker A.J. Edds left practice early with a left knee injury. Pagano said the Greenwood, Ind., native would undergo an MRI. ... Undrafted free-agent receiver Griff Whalen spent the day on crutches after hurting his right foot during the rookie workouts earlier this week. ... Another undrafted receiver, Jabin Sambrano, also sat out with an undisclosed injury. ... Three of the Colts' draft picks are not yet practicing. Defensive lineman Tim Fugger and offensive lineman Justin Anderson are on the physically unable to perform list, and defensive tackle Josh Chapman has been placed on the non-football injury list after having offseason surgery on a torn ACL in his left knee.