BALTIMORE -- The Indianapolis Colts' reversal from a 2-14 record in 2011 to an 11-5 mark this season could largely be traced to Andrew Luck, who established several NFL rookie records this season. But to his teammates, Luck is still a 23-year-old first-year player who isn't too old to understand his role on a team filled with veterans.
"I think there are times when, yeah, you don't feel like a rookie, I guess," Luck said. "But there are still times when you feel like a rookie when you carry Dwight Freeney's jersey in after practice. That hasn't stopped, things like that. So I don't think it will ever stop until after the last game, whichever one that will be."
That last game could come today when Indianapolis (11-5) visits M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens (10-6) in an AFC wild-card playoff contest.
But if there's one reason for the Colts to be optimistic, it's Luck, the top overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
This season, Luck set a rookie record for passing yards (4,374) and records for game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime (seven) and most wins by a No. 1 overall pick (11).
Yet for all of his accomplishments, Luck said he still doesn't think of the offence as his.
"I don't know if I necessarily guided the team to the playoffs," he said. "I think of this offence as Reggie Wayne's offence. He's our leader, but it's been a lot of fun."
That kind of humility has ingratiated Luck to his teammates and coach, Chuck Pagano. Pagano -- the former Ravens defensive co-ordinator who will return to Baltimore for the first time since leaving in January to succeed Jim Caldwell, who is now the Ravens' offensive co-ordinator -- said he has been impressed with Luck's ability to refrain from dwelling on past mistakes.
"He's such a mature kid and understands this game," Pagano said. "He prepares so well, and his focus is unbelievable. We know all the intangibles. We know the physical talent is there. He's extremely intelligent. He's gotten better, and he's his own worst critic. The great thing about Andrew is, he is unflappable. He's able to come off after a mistake was made -- a turnover or something -- he's able to look at things and see what happened, what was the breakdown and put it behind him and move on."
Luck's calmness under fire grabbed the attention of several Ravens players.
"The thing about Luck is, that dude's not normal," Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard said. "I think just the type of player that he is, the guy stays calm all game long. Even if he throws interceptions or fumbles the ball, the guy steps into the pocket, he makes throws."
Ravens cornerback Cary Williams agreed -- with a caveat.
"He doesn't seem to get rattled a lot at times, but at the end of the day, he's still a rookie," Williams said. "We feel very confident in the game plan, very confident in each guy in this locker room that we can go out there and handle our business."
The hope among the Ravens is that they can generate pressure on Luck and possibly rattle him in his first post-season appearance. But defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said he's not sure Luck will wilt under the defence's pass rush and begin making many mistakes.
"I don't know," Ngata said. "They have Chuck out there, who knows us well, and some players that have played here have probably talked to him a little bit. But we'll see what we can do."
-- The Baltimore Sun