Pagano: Andrew Luck can't keep playing like a LB

Andrew Luck experienced an injury-plagued 2015 season, with a lacerated kidney wiping out the final seven games of his season.

Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano recently told NFL Media's Judy Battista that some of the hits Luck takes -- like the one in which he suffered the season-ending injury, being crunched by two defenders while trying to pick up extra yards -- are avoidable.

"He's a competitive guy. He plays the position like a linebacker, with a linebacker's mentality," Pagano said. "He can't do that all the time. We love how he can extend plays, but he's got to be smart and know it's OK to slide. You don't have to take some of those hits."

Pagano has made similar comments before and the coach's note echoes comments made earlier in the offseason by Colts owner Jim Irsay, who said he wanted Luck to learn how to baseball slide better.

The criticisms levied on Luck by the team's brass aren't to belittle the quarterback's toughness, but rather to implore their most important player to err on the side of caution with his body. Just because the 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback can run over linebackers, doesn't mean it's prudent.

Pagano noted that keeping Luck healthy is key if the Colts, and the quarterback, are to regain traction and wrestle back dominance in an improving AFC South.

"No 1. Get him healthy. Keep him healthy. Keep him protected. Keep him upright," Pagano said. "He obviously understands, going through what he went through in not being there for those nine weeks, he's learned a lot, sitting there on the sidelines and being away being out."

Getting improved play from a maligned offensive line is one good place for the Colts to start protecting their most vital asset.

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