It was just a preseason game, but it didn’t feel like one. I spent Saturday, Sunday, and part of yesterday in Indianapolis, watching the debut of Colts QB Andrew Luck. And no part of that seemed like a normal preseason game.
But anyway, it was an eventful few days in Indy… Want some highlights?
— Let’s put Luck aside for a second, since he wasn’t the only No.1 pick on the field. Sam Bradford, coming back from a tough 2011, was there, too. And I was impressed. After a season that saw him play just 10 games and have as many interceptions as touchdowns, Bradford looked different. Gone were the seven-step drops and slow-developing plays, and he took a step forward from a 54-percent completion percentage, too. Bradford was 7 of 9 for 57 yards, throwing on time and mostly on three steps. It was back to a West Coast style that may suit him better, thanks to OC Brian Schottenheimer’s influence. So far, so good for Bradford. It’s easy to forget, this guy was pretty good as a rookie… and that was only in 2010.
— We wrote enough about Luck playing football over the past few days, but there was one interesting non-f0otball detail that emerged from my conversation with his dad, Oliver Luck. The younger Luck was a good student at Stanford, a diligent one. But it’s clear he’s appreciating being able to concentrate on football. The family went to Anderson two weeks ago on a Friday, and it was clearly different from what life was like last year. “He’s focused on football,” Luck’s dad told me. “He has the pleasure of not having to worry about school. He had years where, you’re focused on football, but you knew when you left the practice field, you had to go take an exam, write a paper, do an experiment, whatever, so I think he’s pretty focused on football. He’s enjoying it. He’ll call either me or my wife every day, every other day, talk about some other things, but I think since graduation from Stanford, which was middle of June, he’s been 100 percent focused on football.”
— I swear I’m not just trying to find positives in a crappy Rams performance, but Bradford wasn’t the only thing impressive. Word was that rookie CB Janoris Jenkins was having a stellar camp, and that seemed to carry over onto the field. On one third-quarter player, he had good position on a receiver and had a pass-deflection while never allowing the receiver to touch it, just one glimpse of potential. Actually, talent has never been his problem. But if he keeps his nose clean, he could be unbelievably good. Pair Jenkins with Cortland Finnegan… and that’s not bad. Speaking of rookies, word is Michael Brockers impressed once they got the pads on.
— The food situation in Indy was pretty good. Not fantastic, but solid. Of course, I handicapped myself because I didn’t rent a car (I love a good walking city, what can I say?). But I still managed to have a really good steak. I dissed Mo’s … A Place for Steaks and St. Elmo’s, choosing to go with Harry & Izzy’s instead. Really nice filet rolled in pepper with some sort of special sauce like in the picture. Not sure I’ve ever had a steak in sweet, raspberry-ish sauce, but I think with the peppercorns it worked.
–I was wowed by Luck’s performance, and so was everyone else. But that wasn’t the most eye-popping thing of the day on Sunday. No, it was the sheer relaxation level of those working in the stadium. More than 10 different people commented on how different it was this year without GM Bill Polian lording over them. There weren’t ropes all over the sidelines telling you where you couldn’t go, you didn’t feel like caged animals, workers spoke of a more comfortable atmosphere, and certain sections of the tunnels were open for the first time anyone can remember. No one doubts Polian’s football IQ. But it’s easy to understand why the entire organization feels like it can now breath.
— Speaking of the way things used to be, the roof at Lucas Oil Stadium was open. It was like that at times with Peyton Manning, but rarely. Like, almost never. Actually, it’s quite a gorgeous setting when it’s nice out. That day, with the roof and the windows open, was probably one of the most idyllic football settings I can remember. Interesting about the roof, how it was open during Luck’s first game. As if someone decided to say, yup, it’s a new era now that Manning’s gone.
— Want a weird but true fact about the Rams? RB Steven Jackson and Bradford were only healthy for one game last year at the same time. Jackson played in 15, Bradford played in 10, but they were healthy together for just one. Wondering why the Rams were bad last year? Start there. The Rams have problems, mostly with depth, but if these two stay healthy(ish), don’t be surprised with a quick improvement in an NFC West that is open after the 49ers. Oh, and Jackson looked pretty stout in his four rushes for 17 yards.