BRACKETT: Understanding Luck’s decision

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Gary Brackett played linebacker for the Colts from 2003 through 2011. (IBJ file photo)

The football world was in shock Saturday night after news of the retirement of Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts’ franchise quarterback, was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter during the team’s preseason game against the Bears. While the crowd erupted in boos as the news spread through Lucas Oil Stadium, Andrew’s NFL peers, former players and other professional athletes congratulated a man who has given the better part of his life to the game of football and seven amazing years to the Colts.

That is the reaction Andrew deserved from the start. Having played nine years in the NFL, I identify with what Andrew is going through and have some observations.

Only someone who has played the game at the highest level can understand the grind he has endured these past seven seasons. From the high expectations as the first overall draft pick in 2012 to the struggles with injury and the psychological toll it takes on you, it’s tough not to feel for the man.

Let’s be clear: In football, there is a 100% injury rate. By that I mean, as athletes, we know it is not a matter of IF you’re going to get hurt, but WHEN. The list of injuries Andrew has endured during his professional career is long. In my opinion, nearly two-thirds of NFL players have a similar list of injuries. In my own situation, I had broken ribs, fractured fibulas, sports hernias, a hip labral tear—and the list goes on. The fact is, when we agree to play the game of football we assume the risk that comes with it. We are all hurting while playing the game. Andrew is simply one of the few who decided to act on that fact earlier than some would have liked.

I am happy for Andrew for protecting his future and coming to his own decision. At the same time, his timing was not ideal, with the season opener less than two weeks away. If this was something he’d been thinking about, he should have made the team aware of the possibility in the off season so that it could properly prepare to move on. The reality is this: Andrew does not need the game of football. He’s bright, has a strong family background, is a Stanford graduate, and has done well for himself financially during his time in the NFL. The choice was his to make, and he made it. To fans, players are just parts of their favorite franchise or fantasy team. Let me remind you that we have lives to live. Families to take care of. Dreams beyond football.

We are HUMAN.

Regardless of the timing, a man gave his blood, sweat and tears to the game and to the city for seven years. To be met with the anger, resentment and heckling from fans as he left the game was inexcusable. If Andrew’s final memory with the Colts and Lucas Oil is what we witnessed this past weekend, then we have indeed failed to live up to our standards, not only as football fans, but as human beings.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy
–Martin Luther King Jr.

So what’s next? Under Tony Dungy’s regime as coach, the mentality that guided us in these situations was “next man up.” No matter who on the team gets injured (or, in this case, retires), his backup has to be ready to step in when duty calls. In my view, Jacoby Brissett is a legitimate NFL starting quarterback, not just a serviceable backup. So, instead of focusing on Andrew at this point, our energy as fans should be focused on the current players who will be putting their bodies on the line this season. Hopefully, when things don’t go our way, we will react in better ways than what Andrew faced.

Because we’re better than that.

Brackett is CEO of Brackett Restaurant Group.

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7 thoughts on “BRACKETT: Understanding Luck’s decision

  1. Two thoughts:
    1) This leaked to Adam Schefter, probably from inside the organization.
    2) That means the team didn’t have an effective embargo on the information, nor a communication plan in place.
    Add to that the team (owner) regularly downplaying the injuries to their #1 picks: Manning in 2011, Luck in 2017 and this year.
    I’ll be a bit charitable and suggest that angry fans were booing THE ORGANIZATION.

    1. Chris- I’ve made this point on a number of forums. This is now the THIRD time the Colts have had a starting QB come to Training Camp with a relatively minor injury (or so the media and fans have been led to believe) with every assurance being given that the QB (first Manning, and now Luck twice) would be ready for Week One. Now, this will be the THIRD time the starting QB will not only miss Game One, but also the ENTIRE season. Has any other team had that happen even once, EVER, let alone THREE times?
      The Colts have never been honest about injuries; in fact, at times, they have been downright deceitful.

    2. Yes. I think we agree the booing represented years of pent-up frustration with the Colts organization (owner) and his horrible choice of GM to replace the Polians. There are two people mostly responsible for Andrew’s shortened career, and only one is still with the team. The only question is whether he got the message, or if he still thinks people were booing Andrew.

    1. Very well said Gary. Thanks for taking the time to give your perspective and allow others to better understand the reasoning behind the decision. We should all be grateful for what Luck brought to the team and the way he represented the city of Indianapolis on and off the field. Hopefully, he does choose to stay in Indianapolis and make it his home. Having other former players like you in the city to relate to would make his transition from football easier.

  2. I’ve already tired of the fans being blamed for booing. Would seem a very obvious reaction to fans finding out on their phones while at a pre-season game, when Colts management led everyone in the city to believe Andrew’s injury was minor and that he would be playing this season. What other reaction could they possibly have had? The reaction was as much to the Colts organization, who obviously leaked the story. What a horrible way to tell people who’ve invested money into tickets for the season.

    Additionally, I don’t believe the majority of people begrudge Andrew for retiring in the slightest. We realize that athletes have families and other interests and don’t want to spend year after year being injured and rehabbing. We realize he had given all he had for seven years, and most of us wish him nothing but the best.

    That said, has it occurred to anyone that people are not upset about his decision to retire, but rather at the timing of the decision? Had he retired at the close of last season or at the end of this season, the organization would have been able to properly prepare for the next year and those who have invested a small fortune in season tickets over the last multiple months would have been able to make an informed decision as to whether or not spend their hard earned money. Will the Colts organization be offering those who purchased season tickets since the end of last season, a refund? I highly doubt it. Let’s have the media ask that question.

    I wish Andrew Luck nothing but good things. I just wish this would have been handled better. There could have been less casualties all the way around.

  3. Andrew Luck – you gave Colts fans years of enjoyment and pride. You endured years of pain and difficult rehab to continue, and we have no right to expect you to keep enduring that to the point of permanent disabilities or worse. Thank you for your dedicated excellence to our community.

    I apologize for the fans whose sportsmanship and concern for you was sadly lacking when you made your retirement announcement. Please know that everyone is sorry to see you go and MOST of us only wish you well, a full recovery, and many blessings throughout your post-football years.