The NFL’s comeback player of the year won’t be coming back for another season.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, a four-time Pro Bowl player who made a triumphant return from a serious shoulder injury last year, announced Saturday night that he’s retiring, a stunning development for a franchise considered by many a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
“This is not an easy decision. Honestly, the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me,” Luck said during a news conference after an exhibition game in Indianapolis. “For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason, and I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football.
“My teammates, I feel so conflicted because of my love for these men, but it is clear to me that what’s best for this team is that it doesn’t involve me.”
Luck, 29, told reporters he had been mulling retirement for a week and a half as he battled an ankle injury that jeopardized his chances of playing in the Colts’ season opener against the Chargers.
He said the Colts’ front office, including general manager Chris Ballard, was supportive of his decision, which he initially planned to announce Sunday. ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news on Twitter.
“[This current team] makes it so difficult for me to stand up here and say I’m retired.”
Andrew Luck’s press conference is live right now on CBS Sports HQ.
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) August 25, 2019
“I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live,” Luck said. “Taken the joy out of this game, and after 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again. I find myself in a similar situation and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle that I’ve been in.
“I’ve come to the proverbial fork in the road.”
Luck, the former Stanford star and first player selected in the 2012 draft, sat out the 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He came back with a tremendous 2018 season that included eight consecutive games throwing for at least three scores. His 39 touchdown passes were second in the NFL to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (50).
“I’m sure it’s the right decision for him,” Denver Broncos great John Elway said. “He’s a great player. Hate to see him leave the game.”
Indianapolis, widely considered a vogue Super Bowl pick, has the moderately experienced Jacoby Brissett as its backup quarterback. He played a full season in place of Luck in 2017, throwing 13 touchdown passes with seven interceptions.
At the Westgate Las Vegas Resort, the Colts’ Super Bowl odds dropped from 12-1 to 30-1, according to Actionnetwork.com.
“It stinks because he’s such a great dude and amazing player,” Rams safety Eric Weddle said, “but I respect him and feel happy for him that he’s going to make a decision that he’s thinking about himself instead of the other way around, when ultimately, [if] you don’t, it can hurt you in the long run.”
The Colts returned to the playoffs last year for the first time since 2014, and Luck, who essentially took the torch from Peyton Manning, resumed his spot among the NFL’s elite players.
For the bulk of his career, however, Luck took a beating. Between 2012 and ’16, he absorbed more sacks and hits than any quarterback. Although he’s built like a linebacker, those collisions took a toll.
“Somewhat surprised but not totally,” Archie Manning, Peyton’s father and a former star quarterback, texted to The Times. “The worst side of football is losing and being hurt. Both can wear you down. Andrew has a brilliant mind and can be successful in other fields. He’s moving on. Great young man.”
Luck commands huge respect among his peers.
“Andrew has no weakness,” said Dan Orlovsky, who played quarterback for the Colts during the gap year between the changeover from Manning to Luck. “There was nothing when it came to playing quarterback in the NFL he couldn’t do on or off the field. He was both physically and mentally a rare prospect.”
Said Rams coach Sean McVay: “What a great player he is. I’m sure that he’s been going through a lot of things to make this decision. You feel for him, you feel for his team, for his teammates. He’s the epitome of class.”
In Indianapolis, while the Chicago Bears were in town for the exhibition game, the news was just starting to settle in. At the St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, the mood was subdued.
“Everyone is surprised,” said a hostess at the popular restaurant, who identified herself only as LeeAnn. “Colts fans are really upset. It’s going to sink in by tomorrow.”
Luck was in street clothes on the sideline during the game, and after word of his decision spread inside Lucas Oil Stadium, he was booed by some Colts fans as he made his way to the locker room.
“Very disappointing that the fans booed him tonight,” texted former NFL lineman Tony Boselli, the onetime No. 2 pick whose own career was cut short after six-plus
seasons by a shoulder injury. “One of the things I loved about watching Luck was that he was fearless and laid it all on the line. He was a great QB.”
Staff writer Gary Klein and the Associated Press contributed to this report.