INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears played an extremely sloppy but at times entertaining exhibition game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy Saturday night and nobody cared.
Actually it’s probably more accurate to report that most of the crowd in attendance, which by the way was split almost evenly between Colts and Bears fans, forgot there was a game going on late in the third quarter when an audible gasp in the press box was followed quickly by a buzz throughout the stadium as people became aware of a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was prepared to announce his retirement from the NFL on Sunday.
With the cat out of the bag, Luck addressed reporters after the game and sealed the end of an era in Indianapolis – at least for now - with these 12 words.
“It’s clear to me what’s best for this team is not me.”
Trying to fight off tears and losing the battle, Luck added “I want to thank football for so many wonderful moments in my life.”
In the blink of an eye the Colts went from the presumptive favorite to win the AFC South to a likely also ran, as reporters and fans alike struggled to grasp the shock and impact of the news.
Luck is of course the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year and three weeks short of his 30th birthday he was considered by many to be the likely heir apparent to Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
He was a Pro Bowler his first three years in the league before missing half the 2015 season due to injury.
Luck bounced back in 2016 to throw for 4,240 yards, 31 TDs and 13 interceptions, while playing the second half of the season with a sore shoulder that ended up costing him the entire 2017 season.
Following his award-winning ’18 campaign which included 4,593 yards, 39 TDs and 15 interceptions, Luck has been dogged through this past spring and summer by a “mystery” ankle or leg injury which has allowed him to practice just three times since the end of last season.
According to Schefter’s report Luck was just worn out, we assume from the cumulative effect of all the injuries.
Luck confirmed that in his postgame comments saying, “I’m mentally exhausted and this is no way to lead my life.”
Luck informed Colts owner Jim Irsay of his decision prior to the Bears exhibition.
He confirmed he had not yet told his teammates prior to Schefter’s report, which seemed obvious as they carried the action to the Bears right up until the story broke.
All the life came out of their sidelines as the news spread throughout the stadium which certainly contributed to the Bears scoring 17 unanswered points to overcome a 17-10 deficit and win the game 27-17.
For perspective I went to Bears captain and offensive guard Kyle Long, who also went to the Pro Bowl his first three years in the league but has missed half of each of the past three seasons with ankle, shoulder, hand and neck injuries.
“If you’ve ever dealt with injuries as a professional athlete extensively, cause everybody deals with injuries on a certain level but the guys that have been through just injury after injury, and it takes a long time regardless of their success rate, it starts to wear on you mentally," Long said.
“Obviously the physical aspect is tough," he continued. "But the mental side is a real thing and you know, it’s just, being injured is tough, being injured is real tough.
“I hope nothing but the best for Andrew in whatever he chooses to do.
“Obviously I don’t know what’s going on over there but he’s a great guy in the dealings I’ve had with him and ah, shoot I hope we get to see number 12 out on a football field eventually again because he’s special to watch.”
The emotion and compassion in Long’s eyes and tone was clear.
Will Luck heal and eventually have a change of heart?
Luck wouldn’t rule it out but said he believes right now that he is through and that is more than a huge loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it’s a great loss to everyone who loves the NFL.