The news came like a thunderbolt on a Saturday night across the NFL: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was retiring at age 29.
Just like that, one of the game’s great players, again dealing with a series of injuries he never seemed able to escape, is gone. Even his opponents empathized, including several Redskins players.
“I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to think,” running back Adrian Peterson said. “Just goes to show the type of pain and what he was dealing with and mentally where he was, to retire at such a young age and with so much to look forward top in his future.”
Luck, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, one spot before the Redskins selected Robert Griffin III, left $64 million on the table by retiring. But he missed nine games in 2015 with a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscles and the entire 2017 season because of a shoulder injury. The last straw was an ankle injury that just wasn’t healing. On and off a constant cycle of rehabilitation for years, Luck had enough. The news leaked on social media during Indianapolis’ preseason home game Saturday night and Colts fans booed Luck as he left the field in street clothes.
“We’re human beings. We’re not robots,” Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. “You can’t turn us on, turn us off when you want….Yeah, they may see the numbers and how much we get paid. But you’ve also got to understand that’s it’s a livelihood where if something happens you can’t do something for the rest of your life. That is much bigger than the numbers and whatever else that they look at it. It’s the gift that we’ve been given and it’s also the curse.”
Luck made a similar point in an emotional press conference after Saturday’s game while stunned Colts coaches, players and executives looked on. He cried. The sport he played with joy his entire life wasn’t fun anymore. Articulating that was difficult, especially on the eve of a season with such high hopes for the Colts and the fans’ boos still ringing in his ears.
“I remember my teacher being like, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I want to play quarterback in the NFL,” Redskins quarterback Case Keenum said. “They don’t tell you about a lot of the other things. Like fans booing you when you’re walking off the field for the last time. The injuries, the mental, the physical, the emotional toll it takes on you and your family….We get paid a lot of money and people have their opinions about us, but his family was probably at that game, too. It’s tough and I feel for him.”
Luck made 86 career starts, had a 53-33 record and led the Colts to the playoffs four times and the AFC title game in 2014. That same year he threw five touchdown passes in a Nov. 30 game against Washington. He made the Pro Bowl four times despite the years lost to injury.
His final NFL season showed his greatness one last time for a Colts team coming off a 4-12 season. With Luck back, they went 10-6, finished second in the AFC South and won an AFC wild-card game. Luck might have had his greatest season. He had 4,593 passing yards with 39 touchdowns and set career highs in completions (430), completion percentage and passer rating (98.7). But back on the injury cycle again this summer, it was time to go.
“If you can’t go out there and put your heart and soul into this game then you probably shouldn’t be out there,” Redskins tight end Vernon Davis said. “I would be the same way if I was Andrew Luck. Kudos to him for being honest with himself, being honest with the organization, with the NFL and doing what was right.”
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