INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears’ third preseason game of 2019 will be memorable for much more than Eddy Pineiro’s 58-yard field goal, as it turns out.
On the sideline across from them, and around the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium, a surreal scene played out: Thousands of fans received an ESPN alert during the second half of Saturday night’s game with the stunning news that quarterback Andrew Luck was retiring. But there Luck was, standing in shorts and a t-shirt on the Indianapolis Colts’ sideline, all while legions of fans — and the opposing team — learned of the league’s most stunning retirement since that of Barry Sanders.
“It’s unfortunate for Luck to not get to share his truth and break it out how he would’ve intended,” Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “And no disrespect to Adam (Schefter), that’s Adam’s job, to break news. So yeah, it’s very unfortunate.”
That the news of Luck’s impending retirement broke during an otherwise-meaningless Saturday night preseason game — in which neither the Colts nor Bears played any of their starters — made it feel even more hallucinatory.
Wait: Andrew Luck — the 29-year-old face of a franchise with such a bright future — is retiring? What?
“He’s definitely a great player in this league, and after what he did last year after not playing for a while — yeah, so,” Amukamara said, trailing off. “It’ll just be interesting to hear the reason.
“To be honest, he doesn’t owe us any reason.”
Luck, though, eloquently, candidly and emotionally explained his reasoning for retiring in a press conference following Saturday’s game. He described being “stuck in a cycle of rehab” and that the pain from six years in the NFL took the joy out of the game for him.
“Part of my journey going forward will be getting out of pain and figuring out what’s going on and how to feel better,” Luck said.
Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long, who dealt with his own brutal stretch of injuries and rehab from 2016-2018, discussed the toll that can take on a player.
“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. 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.”
Bears outside linebacker James Vaughters — who was one of the more impressive players vying for a roster spot on Saturday — overlapped with Luck at Stanford in 2011. He said he remembered Luck’s dedication to his craft and attention to details among the things that made him a great quarterback.
“He’s a high character guy, he’s a great leader,” Vaughters said. “He pays attention to the details. (I was) blessed to be able to play with him, blessed to know a guy like that because details, details, details are what make a difference in this game. I really appreciate the opportunity to play with him, the opportunity to know him. He’s a great guy.”
The Bears left Indianapolis on Saturday as merely a small part of the biggest NFL story of 2019. They were just the team on the opposing sideline when the news broke. These two teams play each other once every four years, so Luck’s retirement doesn’t affect their outlook for 2019 (unless you were predicting a Bears-Colts Super Bowl).
But on a personal level, plenty of members of the Bears played against Luck or got to know him somehow. And from afar, those players and coaches conveyed nothing but respect for Luck, both the player and — more importantly, on this day — the person.
“I have so much respect for him,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “I remember him coming out his rookie year (2012), seeing him grow and come in behind Peyton Manning.
“Here’s the one thing I remember about Andrew, is a little story not many people know about: I remember sitting at the train station in Indy here at the Combine (Nagy was an offensive quality control assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles then). And everybody knew that he was going to be the first guy taken. And here he is going around to these 32 tables that teams have all their coaches sitting around to do interviews with a lot of players that might not have formal interviews — these were informal interviews.
“And most guys don’t do that. Here he is, probably the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, he’s going around from table to table sitting down in these informal interviews with position coaches. And that always stuck out to me. And I said you know what, this guy’s going to have a heck of a career, and that’s what he’s done.
“Obviously it’s shocking to everybody, and they have their own deal, but I just have a lot of respect for him.”