Colts' Andrew Luck 'reluctantly accepting' sliding to avoid hits

INDIANAPOLIS -- Who needs a baseball coach to teach him how to slide?

Not Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. That’s because the days of Luck being reluctant to slide or not going down to the ground gracefully when he does attempt to slide are over. Luck has shown his commitment to working on his sliding throughout the team’s offseason workouts.

“It’s part of practice,” Luck said. “A big part of practice is making it as game-like as possible. With all things, if you throw an interception, you start running after the guy that intercepted it. If you’re out running and you’re not near the sidelines, you slide. It’s part of practice.”

Now, those slides need to carry over to the regular season so he doesn’t take unnecessary hits -- like the one on which he suffered a lacerated kidney in Week 9 last season -- during games.

“I think everybody is pretty fired up to see that he knows how to slide now,” coach Chuck Pagano said.

The Colts are so serious about Luck sliding that owner Jim Irsay said during the owners meetings in March he would be willing to hire a baseball coach to teach Luck how to slide properly.

“One thing we did talk about internally was to make sure he does have the slide down," Irsay said at the time. "If we have to bring in a baseball player or baseball coach to talk about sliding ... [Seattle quarterback] Russell Wilson is a baseball player, and when he slides, he does it so naturally. Andrew's struggled a little bit more, but I think that's just his competitive nature saying, ‘Do I shut it down or get those two extra yards?' His competitive nature just gets to him.

“But he has to stay healthy. That's part of his legacy. You can't be a great player in this league if you don't stay healthy. Everyone knows that. You just can't. I think about Bob Sanders. What a great, great player. ... But those injuries and the shortness of his career, that's a tough, tough thing."

One might excuse Luck for shying away from sliding in the past. His inner competitor had him believing he could run over or past a defender the same way he can throw the ball deep to his receivers. That approach worked through the first three-plus seasons of Luck’s career as he has rushed for 79 first downs and 12 touchdowns.

But he met his match in that Nov. 8 meeting with the Broncos, his season ending after he was sandwiched on a scramble play by two Denver defenders and suffered a kidney laceration.

Luck will scramble when necessary, but he’ll also be more aware of when it’s time to get to the ground.

“I think we’ve all been in his ear, like, ‘Dude, when you get out of the pocket, you need to slide,’ because we obviously love him and want him to be playing,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “He’s reluctantly accepting it because he obviously wants to dive ahead and get three more yards. In the grand scheme of things, I think he kind of knows that sliding might be a little better of a decision.”