Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer 12d

Colts happy 'to see our leader back' as Andrew Luck returns to practice

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was business as usual -- at least during the portion of practice open to the media -- for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

There was no over-the-top celebrating or hooting and hollering on the practice field. Luck was just another player on the field getting reps like the rest of his teammates during the time the media was able to watch.

They didn't show it at the time, but Luck's teammates were happy to have him back out there because they know they're a step closer to having him under center during a regular-season game again.

"It's big, just to see our leader back out there," running back Frank Gore said. "That's a plus for us to see him back in uniform throwing the ball around. That's a good thing. That's our leader. Since I've been here, I respect him a whole lot. He's one of the guys that I feel like loves the game, respects the game and plays the game the right way. Very smart and I can't wait to see him out there."

Receiver T.Y. Hilton said, "Happy, excited. He's our leader, he's our quarterback. You get behind our quarterback. He's great, all-around team player."

Luck was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. He won't practice Thursday as part of his rehab schedule. And he's likely still a few weeks away from playing in a game.

"I need to make sure I'm, when the time is right, playing like I've had a year under my belt in this offense, and that's making sure I'm mentally on it," Luck said. "Simple things -- even going out taking a snap from center from a guy with sweaty pants on a hot, humid day. It's a little, 'Okay, can I take a snap?' Not just the shoulder but relearning, finding out how to use your whole body throwing again and drops and timing with receivers will be vital. So (there are) a lot, a lot of things to work on, and that excites me. It really does."

The Colts aren't in a position to be looking over their shoulder hoping Luck quickly gets up to speed. They're trying to avoid falling to 1-4 for the first time under coach Chuck Pagano. They face a winless San Francisco (0-4) team that's lost its past three games by a total of eight points. The Colts have also played Arizona, Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams, the three teams the 49ers have lost to. Indianapolis lost to those teams by a combined total of 68 points.

Jacoby Brissett will start his fourth straight game at quarterback. He's thrown for 683 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions after being acquired from New England on Sept. 2.

"Really impressive. Really, really impressive," Luck said about Brissett. "Mentally, physically, how he's handled things. It's hard to learn an offense in an offseason and he's come in and done a really, really impressive job. He's a great locker room guy. I've enjoyed being in the (quarterbacks) room with him."

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