Frank Reich: Andrew Luck did not let the team down

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Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich sits in a difficult spot having watched his starting quarterback Andrew Luck retire at the age of 29. Reich, however, approaches the upcoming campaign with the confidence his team is built to withstand the massive loss.

Reich spoke to his team Monday about Luck's retirement, instilling bravado that the Colts aren't lost in the wilderness without their franchise captain.

"This morning we talked about the word paradox," a calm and confident Reich said. "For example, everyone makes a unique contribution on this team, yet everyone is replaceable. We can deeply love and respect and care for each individual, yet the team must come first, therefore, when it came to Andrew's retirement, that word paradox kind of helps me, can help us make sense of what's going on. On one hand, we can respect and honor the player and the teammate that Andrew is and was. But at the same time, we can share an excitement and an enthusiasm about the team that we have going forward and the journey ahead of us. Ultimately, it's not about how good any one player is. It's not. It's about how good we are, as a team."

Reich reiterated that while it's always difficult to replace a player of Luck's caliber, the Colts are built to withstand the loss of any one man.

"Someone asked me a question the other day, is there any sense that you felt like Andrew is letting down the team? And the answer was an emphatic no," the coach said. "And why is that? Colts fans know that we use a metaphor around here of climbing Mount Everest to depict the journey of a regular season, and the quest to get to the top and win a world championship. And anyone who's made that climb knows that it requires a total commitment of the heart, complete and total commitment of the heart. When Andrew spoke to us the other day, he spoke of how the cycle of injury and pain and rehab, injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, over four years had taken its toll. It had essentially sucked the passion, the joy, the fun out of football. So, Andrew did the right thing. He did the right thing for himself, and he did the right thing for the team, knowing the requirement and the commitment that's needed of the journey ahead. He did the courageous thing, and he did the honorable thing."

Luck's abrupt retirement came after he was worn down after a litany of health issues from a lacerated kidney, a shoulder injury that wiped out an entire season, and the latest calf/ankle issue.

On Monday, Reich spoke glowingly of his former quarterback's journey ahead in the game of life. Neither Luck nor the Colts are done climbing.

"One last thing, we all know, as far as Andrew's concerned, make no mistake about it, this guy isn't done climbing mountains, he's very talented," Reich said. "This is just a new beginning and a new chapter for him. Can you imagine if he inspired millions of kids to learn how to read? How would that mountain be to climb?

"But also let me assure Colts fans of this: This team is not done climbing. In fact, we're just getting ready. We're just getting started, and we can't wait. I just feel like Chris (Ballard) and his staff have done an unbelievable job of assembling a team of players. This locker room is special. There's a character quality and a passion for this game and this city and what the horseshoe represents that is special. And we believe that our players will rise to that challenge and that occasion. We're ready for the journey ahead. We believe we have the formula of what it takes to have a successful journey. We have the right makeup, we have the right locker room. We have the talent. This is a very talented football team in all three phases."

The climb for Indy became more daunting after Luck's retirement.

Jacoby Brissett takes over under center. Reich called the 26-year-old a top-20 caliber starting quarterback in the NFL.

"I've been here for two years," Brissett said. "The same system with a lot of the same guys so I think that'll help us out a lot. We've gained a relationship. We've had those tough conversations and so it's an ongoing thing. ... It's still week after week, day after day that we have the opportunity to get better."

Reich also added that while he will tweak the offense slightly to accentuate Brissett's skill set, it won't change much.

"We have a vision, the Colts fans know what our vision is," Reich said. "We're all about the process. Get one percent better every day and go 1-0 every week. And then we have the support of Colts nation. There's going to be challenges along the way, we know that for sure. That's what climbing Mount Everest is all about. There nothing easy about it, not one thing about easy about it. But I can't help but think back to an old saying that an old coach of mine used to say all the time (former Bills legendary coach Marv Levy), and that's this: there's no place I'd rather be than right here, right now."

Put in a difficult situation, there is likely no coach Indianapolis would rather have right now either.

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