Andrew Luck ready for debut

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck said Wednesday he is keeping close tabs on the status of Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher as Luck prepares to make his NFL regular-season debut Sunday at Soldier Field.

"I think you have to pay attention to whether he plays or not," Luck said Wednesday on a conference call with the Chicago media. "That's one of the best ever, if not the best middle linebacker. We'll definitely be aware of him, and if he doesn't play their defense will be fine. They're good as always. Someone will step up. If he does play, it's just another challenge for us."

Luck, the top pick in April's draft, said he's eager to face a Bears defense littered with Pro Bowl performers such as Urlacher, linebacker Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Charles Tillman. The Bears finished tied for fifth in the NFL last season with 31 takeaways and have led the league with 266 turnovers forced since coach Lovie Smith arrived in Chicago in 2004.

"I'm very excited," Luck said. "What a great way to kick things off with a great challenge. It'll be tough sledding to get yards, to get points. ... I couldn't be more excited. It's a wonderful opportunity to go up against a lot of players who arguably are the best at their position and play at a high level. It will be a great measuring stick, per se."

Colts fans are equally excited about Luck after he went 41-of-66 for 522 yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 89.3 in the preseason. He is set to become the fifth rookie quarterback in Colts history to start the regular-season opener but first since Peyton Manning in 1998.

"I feel a little more well prepared now than I did my first college game," Luck said. "The preseason helps a lot to feel a little bit of the speed of the game. I understand I'm sure it will be picked up another notch because of the regular season, but to be in there in the pocket with live rushers and say, 'OK, this is how big and strong NFL guys are.' So the preseason has helped a lot and when you are surrounded by great players and great coaches they help you get ready."

First-year Colts coach Chuck Pagano feels confident that Luck is up to the challenge of making his first start in a hostile environment versus the Bears' experienced defense.

"We expect him to play well and play at a high level," Pagano said. "Certainly we know there are going to be some mistakes made. He'd be the first one to tell you that, but he holds himself to a high standard as well as his teammates and so forth. So I expect him to come in and play well."

A two-time Heisman Trophy finalist at Stanford, Luck set school records for career touchdown passes (82) and pass completion percentage (67.0), while throwing for 9,430 yards in 38 starts.