INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Through halting moments and tears, Andrew Luck said goodbye.
Or was it: ‘Til we meet again?
To those of us in attendance at a hastily-arranged press conference late Saturday evening at Lucas Oil Stadium, there was little question Luck was speaking from the heart. He wrestled with his emotions and on several occasions had to pause, lest the tears welling up inside overwhelm him.
Too many injuries, leading to too much rehab, resulting in too much pain.
“It’s been unceasing and unrelenting, both in-season and offseason,’’ Luck said. “I felt stuck in it and the only way I see out is to no longer play football.
“I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. . . . I find myself in a similar situation and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle I’ve been in.’’
Luck was under contract through 2021. He’s walking away from roughly $64 million from the extension he signed in July 2016 and, potentially, so much more. Considering the ever-escalating salaries of elite quarterbacks, his next contract probably would have been nothing short of ridiculous.
“Look, he’s leaving 450-500 million dollars on the table, potentially a half-billion dollars,’’ said owner Jim Irsay, who would have gladly endorsed those checks.
Luck turns 30 in September. He’s barely in his prime. Tom Brady is 42 and has led New England to three Super Bowl championships since turning 37. Drew Brees is 40, Eli Manning 38. Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers are 37. Aaron Rodgers is a relative pup at 35.
In his post-Colts career, Peyton Manning won his record fifth MVP with Denver in 2013 on the strength of NFL records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477). He was 37. Two years later, he won his second Super Bowl.
Quarterbacks play a long time. Might Luck reconsider?
Maybe he wakes up in eight, 10, 24 months and decides, Hey, body feels outstanding. I miss the game, the competitive arena and the special camaraderie of a locker room. I’m coming back.
“I can’t see the future,’’ Luck said when that possibility was posed to him. “But I very clearly in my mind see that I won’t.’’
Luck first began considering retirement in the last 10 days, and kept the folks in control – Irsay, Chris Ballard, Frank Reich – in the loop.
Irsay insisted he never attempted to talk his $140 million QB out of walking away.
“I tried to be the best sounding board I could for him, as a father of children that are older than him,’’ he said. “Life has its spiritual journey, people. This stuff is kind of a bigger-than-all-of-us issue.
“I would never try to talk someone out of something that their heart really truly wasn’t into. So I was there to absolutely support him and counsel him.’’
While it seemed obvious Luck was at peace with a life-altering decision that rocked a franchise, a city and the entire NFL, Irsay wasn’t prepared to close the door completely on Luck once again delivering passes for the Colts. As much as Luck spoke from the heart, that might also have been the case with his boss.
“I don’t rule it out because as quickly as this thing sort of descended on us and as mysterious as it was coming upon us, it could leave the same way. That’s a fact,’’ he said. “It’s very hard to measure sometimes our human experiences and how we all perceive our life from out chair.
“I would say it’s possible. I think no one knows and he’d be the first to tell you no one knows. Only time will tell.’’
If Saturday night was indeed the last time Luck was at Lucas Oil Stadium as a member of the franchise that made him the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, there will remain a smear on that emotional moment.
Luck spent the game on the Colts sideline, often chatting with Jacoby Brissett, who’ll replace him as the starting QB. But as he walked to the locker room at the end of the preseason game with the Chicago Bears, a portion of the remaining fans showered him with boos.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I heard the reaction,’’ Luck said. “It hurt, I’ll be honest.’’
The team could have sought to recoup $24.8 million from Luck for bonuses already paid: a peroration of $12.8 million from his $32 million signing bonus as part of his 2016 extension and another $12 million from a roster bonus he received in March.
However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter, citing a source, reported Luck and the Colts reached a settlement last week that allows Luck to keep the entire amount.
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