INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck is willing to learn from Peyton Manning. He just wants everyone to know he’s ready to play next season, too.
The Stanford quarterback said Thursday he could co-exist as Manning’s teammate even though his preference would be to play immediately.
“I think every competitor wants to play, every down, every play,” Luck said when asked about starting as an NFL rookie. “So, of course, who wouldn’t want to start?”
Luck spent less than 24 hours in Indianapolis, going through a battery of physical tests and learning the intricacies of nutrition at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.
His next trip to the city, for the annual scouting combine, might determine whether Luck becomes a permanent fixture.
Colts owner Jim Irsay has already said he intends to take Manning’s successor with the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft, and it looks like a two-man race between Luck and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
But there are big questions surrounding the Colts.
Indy has embarked on a major rebuilding project with Ryan Grigson, a first-time general manager, and Chuck Pagano, a first-time coach.
There are even more concerns about Manning, who missed the 2011 season after having his third neck surgery Sept. 8. The four-time league MVP has resumed throwing and has steadily increased his workout regimen. On Tuesday, Manning said doctors have told him the recovery is on schedule, and he does not plan to retire after 14 seasons in the NFL.
Irsay said he will wait until next month to decide whether to pay its franchise quarterback a $28 million roster bonus by March 8, redo the contract or risk losing him in free agency.
“We haven’t had any midnight conversations,” Irsay said Thursday with a laugh. “Nothing has changed, and we’re looking forward to talking after the Super Bowl and continuing to work toward a solution.”
If Indy keeps Manning and takes Luck, it would be the first real quarterback controversy since the pre-Manning days.
Manning’s father, Archie, created a buzz late last year when he told a radio show he didn’t think the two could be teammates. He later said what he meant was that Luck and Peyton Manning both were good enough to start in 2012.
“I think to have an opportunity to play with a guy like Peyton Manning would be great,” he said.
The rebuilding Colts are hoping to replicate the model that made Manning a star.
They opened the ’98 season with a new coach, a new GM, a new quarterback and Bruce Arians as quarterbacks coach. After changing coaches and GMs, the Colts hired Arians as their new offensive coordinator.
The quarterbacks’ early resumes also look similar.
Manning and Luck are both second-generation quarterbacks who finished second in the Heisman balloting and were regarded as the best QBs in their draft class.
The Lucks and Mannings have family ties, too. Andrew’s father, Oliver, and Manning’s father were teammates in Houston for two seasons in the 1980s, and Luck has been both a student and a counselor at the Manning’s summer quarterback camp in Louisiana.
In fact, when Luck decided to go back to college for his junior season instead of turning pro, Peyton Manning was one of the people Luck called.
“It was more asking for advice on how he handled certain situations. I had already made the decision,” Luck said. “He talked about, one, it’s not going to get any easier. Quite the contrary, teams are going to be really gunning for you and yada, yada, yada and don’t expect it to be a cakewalk and easy all the time. Then, No. 2, just how to handle certain situations maybe with the media or certain situations that rise up.”
Now the Colts must decide whether to release Manning and start over, keep Manning and make the draft pick wait or let Manning and his apparent heir battle for the starting job.
“You never really replace someone like that,” Luck said. “He (Manning) is such an iconic sports figure especially for this city, this area. From what I understand, he’s done so many great things outside of football and in the community. I haven’t given it too much thought. I’ve got the combine, that’s what’s important to me right now. The combine, the draft, the pro day before that, that’s what I’m focusing on.”