INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – With the activity unfolding on the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium Wednesday during the Indianapolis Colts’ open minicamp session, it would be a mistake to ignore two central figures who will spend much of their time seemingly tethered at the hip.
That would be Andrew Luck.
And Ryan Kelly.
Theirs is budding relationship that began when the Indianapolis Colts, woefully deficient at providing Luck with anything resembling stability at center since his arrival in 2012, invested their first-round pick in April’s draft on an all-American out of Alabama.
Once Kelly was given his No. 78 jersey, he was given a locker adjacent to Luck’s.
The implication was clear: get to know each other.
“New locker mate Ryan right there,’’ Luck said, casting a recent glance at his newest, closest neighbor. “He’s been great. He’s smart. He’s conscientious. He’s tough.
“I think he’s got a little ornery in him. He’s a little bit mean, which is great.’’
No positions are more closely linked than quarterback and center. It starts with the basics – getting comfortable with the snap so it’s second nature – and expands to Luck and Kelly being in sync on every play.
Remember those snapshots of Peyton Manning waving frantically as the play clock wound down, intent on making a pre-snap adjustment in the play call or shifting the blocking scheme? He was working in concert with his center, Jeff Saturday, who likewise was surveying the defense and communicating with the rest of the offensive line.
The harmonious end product was a result of Manning and Saturday building their relationship during the offseason. During practice, during meetings, certainly whenever just hanging out in the locker room or weight room.
No one should expect Luck and Kelly to break bread three or four evenings a week or routinely get together for bowling. But no one should underestimate the value of them getting to know each other as much as possible.
Kelly has made the most of sharing space with Luck the past six weeks.
“It’s been great,’’ he said. “I think certainly taking one day at a time through OTAs and obviously off the field as well, whether it’s just eating or talking about life and just kind of figuring out what makes him tick.
“It’s obviously been a growing relationship and we’re just looking forward to getting back on the field (for minicamp) and continuing that before we go to the real thing.’’
That would be the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Detroit.
And that needs to be the first step in a long, prosperous working relationship.
The expectation is for Luck-Kelly to one day rival Manning-Saturday. The latter were teammates for 13 seasons. They established the standard for quarterback-center stability by sharing 170 regular-season starts, an NFL record.
Luck’s first four seasons were void of similar continuity. He endured five starting centers: Khaled Holmes (9 games), Jon Harrison (19), A.Q. Shipley (9), Samson Satele (24) and Mike McGlynn (3).
“You know we’ve wanted to achieve continuity,’’ general manager Ryan Grigson said after adding Kelly. “Obviously anybody with any aptitude would want stability and talent to protect our franchise quarterback.
“It hasn’t worked out that way.’’
Holmes was released three days after Kelly was drafted. Harrison is in the mix to start at right guard.
Center belongs to Kelly. Period.
That’s why it’s critical for the rookie center and veteran quarterback to develop a rapport where so much of what they do on the field becomes second nature.
“Certainly the quarterback and center are two of the kind of commanders, how I put it, for the offense,’’ Kelly said. “We’re kind of making checks based on what the defense shows.
“I think we have to be on the same page at all times to put our offense in the best situation to be successful. The more we can click on and off the field, I think it’s certainly going to make life a lot easier and we’ll be more successful on the field.’’
And Kelly’s early impressions of his next-door neighbor?
“One of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around, obviously,’’ he said. “He can connect with pretty much anybody. A very wide-topic kind of guy.
“It’s been good. It’s been really good. I’m just kind of developing and learning how to be a professional and obviously watching him every day certainly makes it a lot easier.’’