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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Luck Likely to Leave Fame as Fast as He Left NFL

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterAugust 28, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 24: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts walks off the field following reports of his retirement from the NFL after the preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Andrew Luck appears headed in Barry Sanders' footsteps, why the Colts may not be doomed and bad news for Deshaun Watson. All of that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

    

1. A more ordinary life

Perhaps the greatest football player of all time retired on a movie set.

His name is Jim Brown. Maybe you've heard of him.

That may not be as easy to say about Andrew Luck 50 years from now in the wake of his sudden retirement this past weekend.

That isn't a knock on his talent, but a commentary on what the now-former Colts quarterback will do next.

Only a handful of impactful NFL players have retired early (or what is thought of as early) in the modern era. Gale Sayers, the Hall of Fame Bears running back, retired at 29. Steelers Hall of Famer Lynn Swann called it a career at the age of 30. Calvin Johnson, the Lions all-world receiver, retired at 30. Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Famer Terrell Davis retired at 29. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retired at 29 in March. And Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin retired at 30 in May.

Almost all of them went on to lead high-profile lives. Brown became an actor. Swann became a politician. Gronk just keeps on partying.

One player who we haven't mentioned yet may provide the template for what we can expect to hear (or not hear) from Luck in the ensuing years: Barry Sanders.

When Sanders retired in 1999, he was viewed as one of the best players in league history. To this day, he is viewed as maybe the most electric running back the NFL has ever seen.

Do you know how he retired? He faxed a letter to his hometown newspaper, the Wichita Eagle, in Kansas.

After leaving football, Sanders largely disappeared. I reached him once on the phone about five years after he retired. He said something like: "I'm enjoying my life right now. I don't really want to do an interview."

That was it.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 1: Actor Keegan-Michael Key takes a photograph with former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders on the sidelines before the game between the Lions and the Minnesota Vikings on October 1, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapol
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Sanders hasn't been a total hermit. He's appeared in public here and there, but he hasn't created a stir anywhere he's gone.

That will probably be Luck's path, too.

While the Colts privately believe there's a chance Luck returns to football, a person who knows him told me he'd be stunned if that happened. You also shouldn't expect Luck to openly muse about returning to the NFL like Gronk, become an analyst like Davis or show up at the White House with Kanye West like Brown.

Luck didn't hype himself as a player, and it's doubtful he will now that he's left the game. With the $24.8 million he has coming to him from the Colts and a degree from Stanford in architectural design, he'll have plenty of ways to fill his time and interests away from the media's glare.

Luck may be just like Sanders: rarely seen.

    

2. About that 2012 draft

Luck's retirement offers a chance to look back on the 2012 draft and how those choices have played out.

If you don't remember, the choice at the top was among the most fiercely debated in recent league history: Luck or Robert Griffin III.

Seven years later, that draft has an entirely different feel.

This excellent look back by Benjamin Solak of the Draft Network stands as a reminder of how unpredictable the draft is:

Benjamin Solak @BenjaminSolak

2012 NFL Draft (QB): 1.1: A. Luck - retired 1.2: RGIII - backup in BAL 1.8: R. Tannehill - backup in TEN 1.22: B. Weeden - selling Enterprise rentals? 2.57: B. Osweiler - reaching tall shelves -- 3.75: R. Wilson - SB champ 3.88: N. Foles - SB MVP 4.102: K. Cousins - a starter!

It's yet another example of how everyone (including front-office executives) has no clue what they're talking about when it comes to projecting who will and won't be a star based on their college performances. 

    

3. It isn't all doom and gloom in Indy

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

With Luck out of the picture, many fans seem to believe the Colts will implode like a dead sun. But that isn't what I hear from some teams, who argue this Colts roster has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball.

Jacoby Brissett is a far better quarterback than many know. The offensive line is solid. And there is talent at the skill positions.

Plusand this is bigthey play amid the uncertainty of the AFC South.

The Texans lost a major piece for the year in running back Lamar Miller (more on that later). The Titans are still somewhat of a mystery because we don't know what we'll see from quarterback Marcus Mariota. And the Jaguars have a new quarterback in Nick Foles.

In other words, it's wide-open.

So don't bury the Colts just yet.

    

4. Making sense of Luck's choice

HOUSTON, TX- OCTOBER 09:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts scrambles away from J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans in the first quarter in a NFL game on October 9, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Texans future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt has battled his own share of injuries in his career, so when he addressed reporters following Luck's retirement, he did so while opening a window into the toll the recovery process takes on players. 

"I think it takes an immense amount of courage, an immense amount of self-reflection and a lot of guts to do what he's doing. I'm sure people have their ways of looking at it and their ways of trying to say what they would do in his shoes, but the truth is, nobody's in his shoes. Nobody has had to go through what he has had to go through. Nobody has been through the rehab and injuries. Everybody sees game day. They don't see the offseason. They don't see the Monday through Friday and doing whatever he possibly can to get his body ready for the game. I respect the hell out of it. It takes a whole lot to walk away from a ton of money like that, an organization like that. I respect it. ... To be able to make a decision like that, that's a tough one. I know he's probably wrestled with it for a very long time."

Watt also spoke about the psychological impact of injuries.

"It's brutal, because you know what you are capable of [when healthy]. He probably knows that as well. There are so many people that want you to be who you can be and want you to be great and want all these things, and you want to be all those things for those people. The funny thing is, that's the way it goes. Everybody has their opinions and all these different things. It can have the ability to suck the fun out of the game. ... He made the best decision for him. And that may not be popular and that may not be what people say they would do in that spot, but he has a whole life to live."  

   

5. Paging Captain Kirk

After a disappointing first season with the Vikings, many expected Kirk Cousins to bounce back to the reliable veteran he was in Washington.

They're still waiting.

His performance in the third preseason game (the "dress rehearsal") did nothing to slow talk from some in the league that Cousins is simply an average player.

Cousins went 3-of-13 for 35 yards against a lackluster Arizona defense. It was the same kind of stuff you saw last year from him: inaccurate throws at inopportune times.

There's no excuse for a game like that. Cousins isn't working his way back from an injury, and he isn't in his second season in the league.

It feels a little early to panic, but it isn't too early to start worrying a bit.

     

6. Houston, we still have a problem

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked an NFL-high 62 times last year. Anyone thinking it couldn't get worse likely was alarmed when he was sacked twice in the opening series in Houston's preseason game at Dallas last Saturday.

The problem can be fixed.

One of the issues is that Watson is still holding onto the football too long. The other is the left tackle position, which is being manned by rookie first-round pick Tytus Howard for now.

What's clear is that Watson can't keep getting hit like this. If he does, his career won't last long.

     

7. Why the preseason is a waste, Part 1 million

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

One last thing on the Texans, which has less to do with them and more to do with the league in which they play.

Running back Lamar Miller tore his ACL against the Cowboys on Saturday in a preseason game that counted for absolutely nothing. What a waste.

Miller had 973 rushing yards and six total touchdowns in 14 games last season. He's a good running back, and the Texans expected him to bring balance to their offense and keep defenders out of Watson's face.

Now, we may not see him until 2020, and for what? To get a few meaningless reps in a meaningless game.

It's just another example why preseason games need to go away.

         

8. Animal planet

Logan Ryan @RealLoganRyan

My shelter dogs Leo and Julius can be clowns one minute and super sweet the next. But no matter what, they’re all pure love. #AdoptPureLove https://t.co/3i5P6qRR6t

When Titans defensive back Logan Ryan was growing up, he had geckos, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and a golden retriever. Now, he has three dogs.

"They are like my kids," Ryan told B/R. "They are on the couch. When you're a guest at my house, you share the couch with the dogs."

Ryan's love of animals and dogs led him to create the Ryan Animal Rescue Foundation. He recently partnered with Mars Petcare to host "Adoption Weekend" in Nashville, where residents were encouraged to adopt pets at local sheltersand Mars Petcare covered the adoption fees.

"It's the best cause in the world," Ryan told me while speaking in support of sponsoring pet adoptions. "I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, so to speak."

Ryan is also a talented football player who is part of a close and tough Titans defense. While the focus in Tennessee has been on Mariota's make-or-break year, the defense could be better than people think.

Ryan thinks that may be the case for the entire team.

"We're going to be a tough out," he said. "We've improved on both sides of the ball. We're healthier than last year. We could shock some people."

     

9. There's commitment, and then there's commitment

Teresa Walker @TeresaMWalker

#Titans @KB31_Era on holding his new daughter Eliana Rose, using his ball hawking hands to keep her secure and says she knew who had her: https://t.co/YEuAtXA9OV

Ryan offered an example of just how dedicated the Titans defense may be when he recounted how safety Kevin Byard recently became a father.

Byard's wife gave birth to a baby girl at approximately 1 a.m. last Thursday. After she delivered the baby, Byard slept for about two-and-a-half hours. He then left the hospital and rejoined his teammates for meetings and practice that same morning.

"We were amazed," said Ryan. "It shows you how dedicated he is to the team and to winning."

    

10. Mort report

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 17:  Former New Orleans Saints kicker Morten Andersen stands on the field as he receives his pro football hall of fame ring during halftime at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Some of you may not remember Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen, but he is one of the most influential players in the history of the league.

He still holds the all-time record for games played with 382. At the time of his retirement, he was the career leading scorer for two different teams—the Saints and Falcons. He and Jan Stenerud are the only two kickers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That's how exclusive of a club Andersen is in.

I caught up with him recently, courtesy of bet-nj.com.

      

B/R: Did you ever see anything like the Antonio Brown helmet situation in your career? Even close?

MA: The Antonio Brown helmet situation would never have happened when I played. This is an example of how much attention star players command when they decide to flex and stand by what they believe is fair. It is a hard battle for individual players to win when player safety is in play and especially in light of the debate regarding CTE.

When I played, I doubt that there would have been a huge welcoming committee greeting Mr. Brown. Old-school players believed in no drama. Just work hard, do your job and keep your mouth shut, unless what you said benefited the team.

      

B/R: What impresses you about the quarterback of your old team (one of them) in Drew Brees?  

MA: Drew Brees has true leadership qualities. Despite his modest height, he has been able to shred defenses by stepping up in the pocket, "climbing the ladder" and throwing to open receivers. He has great anticipatory management and a clear understanding of his abilities and those of his teammates.

I believe the longevity of his career has to do with being diligent and smart. Train smart, eat right, get rest, take care of your body. Also, you have to have an ability to turn it on and off. I think Drew has good balance in his life between his competitive side and his private, family side. He is involved in the community and leads what, to me, appears to be a life of quality.

         

B/R: Who is your favorite kicker in the league? 

MA: I really like Justin Tucker. He has swagger and pure talent combined with work ethic. Justin is detail-oriented. I know this because I have shared many of my ideas from my playing days with his coach, Jerry Rosburg, whom I worked with briefly in Atlanta. [Tucker also] is strong mentally and recovers well from a mishap.

      

B/R: Which team will be the worst in the league?  

MA: J-E-T-S

Well, I could have picked a couple of other teams as well, like the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions. Teams that want to contend need a consistent quarterback and a pass rush. In my opinion, the Jets are lacking in both areas.

       

B/R: Who is your Super Bowl pick?

MA: The Saints will play the Chiefs. Both teams have stellar QB play, team speed, solid defense and good special teams. And both teams made the playoffs last year.

          

 Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@mikefreemanNFL.