Q&A: Colts QB Andrew Luck talks leadership, staying healthy ... and acting

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck heads into his third season having accomplished more in his first two seasons — 22 victories, two playoff appearances, 46 TD passes, more than 8,000 passing yards — than most quarterbacks can muster in a career. And yet he’s hungry to do more.

The Colts have handed the keys to the franchise to him, and he’s driving, navigating the road and also keeping an eye on everyone on the bus. Can he do any more?

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Well, Luck is also managing to have some fun, too, and he had some fun participation in Tough Season 2, a fantasy football mockumentary starring several NFL players and sponsored by Lenovo.

Luck took time out of his schedule to talk to Shutdown Corner about his acting career and also how his leadership has grown, the team's offseason adversity (including its owner, Jim Irsay, being arrested), whether he has too much on his plate, how he tries to protect himself on the field and plenty more.

Shutdown Corner: So first, tell me about Tough Season 2 — how are your acting chops?

Luck: My acting chops are awful. I did Season 1 and I definitely didn’t deserve a callback based on my acting. But it’s fun and a good experience. You get to see what actors go through and you also can appreciate your day job.

SDC: It's hard enough that you had to follow Peyton Manning in Indianapolis on the field … but now you’re trying to match him with the acting gig off the field?

Luck: [laughs] He does a great job with that. I won’t try to match him with that.

SDC: Tough Season is obviously a spoof, and a very funny one. But do you think fans sometimes get a little too into fantasy football, especially when they approach you?

Luck: It definitely does come up [with fans]. I think I get it. I played one year of fantasy football in high school. You really get into it. It makes more fans of the NFL, and people love talking about it. They’ll come up to me and say, ‘Why did you throw an interception? You ruined my fantasy team!’ Or they’re happy because they got you for a bargain. [laughs] So there’s a range of emotions with them.

SDC: Is there one thing you think you’re far more comfortable doing now compared to your rookie season? One aspect of the game that has come more naturally and smoothly to you now?

Luck: Yeah, I think it’s sort of the whole game-management thing. Understanding the situation, understanding where you are as a team at different points in the game. It helps to give you a little perspective when it comes to … ‘OK, we’re really going to force the ball in here,’ or ‘We just need a first down and a completion to get going.’ Understanding third down and the red zone, those are big. So I’d call it football understanding on the whole.

Would you also say that your approach to leadership, and knowing when to speak, is one of those things that becomes more comfortable with age and experience?

Luck: Absolutely. I think leadership is most effective when it’s your own personality. But I feel like it’s a natural progression as a quarterback, as well. I definitely feel more comfortable making my opinion heard. Saying certain things to certain guys [is easier]. I think the biggest thing is that it comes from within my own personality, which makes it most genuine. There’s a bunch of good guys on this team, a bunch of great leaders. And they lead year-round.

SDC: I had an interesting conversation with your backup, Matt Hasselbeck, a few weeks ago and he was telling me how he isn’t in favor of any quarterback — especially a young one — having too much on his plate. Everything from having all the responsibilities on the field, to everything that comes with being the face of the franchise: media obligations, charity events, etc. Do you think there’s something to what Matt said about a quarterback being spread too thin sometimes?

Luck: Yeah, and that’s probably human nature. I think a lot has to do with the position of quarterback and where the NFL is in today’s sports society. For better or worse, the quarterback has a piece of the team in a lot of cases. And yeah, I think there’s some validity to it. Matt and I have talked about that a lot: keeping things simple and keeping it bare bones in a sense, as much as you can. He’s definitely a great resource. And I think the organization has done a great job of — I don’t want to say protecting the players, but managing the expectations outside of football. But I think it’s something, too, where I’ve learned to say no. I am a lot better at saying no these days. Better than when I was a rookie for sure. And those are things that you gain and understand better through experience. I didn’t know all that as a rookie. So I’ve learned that well, too.

SDC: You’ve been very effective scrambling your first two seasons, and you've done it fairly often, with 125 carries. Do you ever worry about your own health when you see quarterbacks who run often such as Robert Griffin and Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick suffering various injuries that seemed to be either caused by or exacerbated by leaving the pocket and exposing themselves to more hits?

Luck: I wouldn’t say you worry about your health when you run. I would say a quarterback as an obligation to protect yourself as a runner, whether it’s getting out of bounds, sliding or getting down, whatever it might be. Obviously, there are situations in games where it’s unavoidable and you have to take [a hit] on a fourth down, or whatever the situation is. But I think understanding football allows you to understand when to take those hits and when not to. That said, I would say I probably have never worried about injuries while playing the game of football. Once that happens, you can get paralyzed, so to speak, as a player.

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (AP Photo/Sam Riche)
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (AP Photo/Sam Riche)

SDC: This weekend in the Colts' third preseason game, Reggie Wayne got back on the field for the first time since suffering a torn ACL. Knowing what he means to the team and that it was no guarantee he’d play this early, how big was that, even if it was for only for 10 plays?

Luck: It was awesome to have him back on the field and get a couple of catches [that were called back by penalty]. I speak for myself when I say it was fun to have him out there running around. He definitely brings a certain energy. I am sure for him it was great to get that speed back — that feel of the speed of the game — and be out there with the guys contributing. It was great to have him back.

SDC: You were critical of your play and the play of the offense in that game. Are you at all concerned about any of that carrying over into the regular season?

Luck: No concerns. We still have a lot of work to do and things that we can take [out of that game] to improve on. But we’re back, and you make mistakes and you have practice to get better with. It’s all part of the process.

SDC: There has been a little bit of turmoil around the team this offseason. How have you and Chuck Pagano and the other team leaders done your best to keep the focus on football and getting everyone to buy into the team dynamic?

Luck: I think Coach Pagano does a great job of creating a great work atmosphere. We have good guys and we understand that we’re only here to win and work towards winning a championship. I think if you keep that as your goal, it’s easy for everyone to fall in line now and be on the same page.

SDC: Dwayne Allen is back, Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks have joned the team, Reggie is now back, and you have guys like T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener. Is this the best group of pass catchers you’ve had since you’ve been here?

Luck: It’s a very fun, dynamic group to be with. They’re fun to play with. I hate comparing any past team or any group because it always ends up being alienating someone. It’s just not fair to compare any group to last year or my rookie year. But I’ll say it’s a very fun group to play with.

SDC: Last season, one of the oddities of the Colts was that you beat three of the final four teams in the conference championship games — the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos — and yet lost to some non-playoff teams at home, such as the Dolphins and the Rams by 30. What was up with that?

Luck: Consistency is the biggest thing we’re searching for. Believe me, it’s been a point of emphasis. Everyone is good in the NFL — anybody can beat anybody, but to truly be a great team in this league you have to do it consistently. We need to take that approach every day in practice, every game and every week and the goal is always to be consistently good. Sometimes that’s harder than being occasionally great.

Here’s more information on the series:

NFL sponsor Lenovo has launched season two of its popular fantasy football mockumentary Tough Season. Episode one of the humorous 13-episode series can found by visiting www.Lenovo.com/NFL. Tough Season 2 features seven current and former NFL stars, Andrew Luck, Matt Forte, Alfred Morris, AJ Green, Wes Welker, Mason Crosby and Doug Flutie. The series premise revolves around perennial fantasy football loser Brad Blevins (actor Tim Baltz) using Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro and support from NFL stars to secure his first-ever office fantasy title. In season two, how will Brad handle the defense of his crown: will he let success and his Lenovo spokesman contract go to his head? Can he count on his NFL friends to perform up to championship standards?

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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