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Luck finds cost of football too pricey to continue career

Sun Aug 25 2:11pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck shakes hands with Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay after a news conference following the team's NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. The oft-injured star is retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, left, and owner Jim Irsay, second from left, listen as Colts quarterback Andrew Luck speaks during a news conference following the team's NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. The oft-injured star is retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)


Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard speaks during a news conference after the team's NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced that he his retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


The injured ankle of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is seen as he speaks during a news conference following the team's NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. The oft-injured star is retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)


Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich speaks as team owner Jim Irsay listens following a news conference after the Colts' NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced that he his retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck speaks during a news conference following the team's NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. The oft-injured star is retiring at age 29. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck was unique.

He loved football. He loves life even more.

So when the 29-year-old Luck thought another long, laborious comeback journey jeopardized his future plans, he believed walking away from the sport and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars was the only logical choice.

''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 off season,'' Luck said following Saturday night's loss to the Chicago Bears. ''I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It's taken my joy of this game away.''

The announcement and the timing - two weeks before the Indianapolis Colts' season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers - shocked the football world.

But this was not a spur of the moment decision.

After three injury-plagued seasons, Luck returned last year with a new perspective about the physical pain, mental fatigue and emotional agony it took to keep fighting his way back. Late last summer, he described his state of mind throughout the continual rehab with words such as `sad,' `miserable' and `scared.'

Last month, as the lingering pain in his lower left leg forced him off the practice field yet again, Luck told reporters he promised himself after playing through the shoulder pain in 2016 and missing the entire 2017 season, he would be honest with himself, his coaches, teammates and the organization about how his body felt.

At the time, Luck said he thought even limited practices were detrimental to himself and the team.

While some fans booed Luck as he left the field Saturday night, other players supported him. They understand how dangerous and debilitating the sport can be, which is why some are quitting at earlier ages.

Luck just happens to be the biggest name yet on that expanding list.

''I think it takes an immense amount of courage, an immense amount of self-reflection and a lot of guts to do what he is doing,'' Houston defensive end J.J. Watt said. ''I am 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, no one is in his shoes. Nobody has to go through what he has had to go through. Nobody has been through the rehab and the injuries. ... I respect the hell out of it. I think it takes a whole lot to walk away from a ton of money like that.''

Colts owner Jim Irsay estimates Luck could have made as much as $500 million if he lasted as long as Brett Favre, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, Luck's predecessor.

But Luck was never in it for the money or the fame - like others who left the game on their terms and in their prime.

Barry Sanders retired at age 31 after winning four NFL rushing titles and within reach of breaking Walter Payton's career rushing record. At age 30, Calvin Johnson called it quits after his sixth straight Pro Bowl appearance. Jim Brown walked away at age 30 for a budding movie career, less than a year after winning his third and final MVP award.

They never came back, and Luck said he doesn't anticipate a return, either, though he's young enough to do it.

Many others, such as Hall of Famers Gale Sayers and Terrell Davis, were forced out by injuries or age.

Luck seems to be a combination of the two, largely the result of a porous offensive line that allowed the top overall draft pick in 2012 to take more hits than any quarterback in the league during his first five seasons.

He was good enough to lead the Colts to playoff appearances in each of his first three seasons, the 2014 AFC Championship game and orchestrate the second-largest comeback in playoff history. And when he returned healthy last season, he took the Colts back to the playoffs and was a runaway winner in the league's Comeback Player of the Year award balloting.

It just wasn't enough for Luck.

''We all expect we're going to play this game forever,'' Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. ''The reality is for most players, it's not very long. No matter how good we are, or whatever it may be, there's life after this game, too. I think that's a thing we always have to balance and always have to weigh.''

Luck is the sixth quarterback of the 11 selected in 2012 out of football.

Wilson and Nick Foles, both third-round picks that year, own Super Bowl rings. Kirk Cousins, a fourth-rounder, is the starter in Minnesota.

The other two still around - Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill - had promising careers derailed by injuries, too. Griffin, the No. 2 pick who played high school football in Texas like Luck and beat Luck out for the 2011 Heisman Trophy award, is fighting for a roster spot in Baltimore. Tannehill, the No. 8 pick, is the backup to Marcus Mariota in Tennessee.

Luck didn't want to spend more countless hours in the training room now that he's married and will soon become a father.

He'd rather travel the world, watch soccer, put his architectural degree from Stanford to use and suggest good reads for the Andrew Luck Book Club. Perhaps he will come back to football one day. Or maybe he'll choose a new career.

''To step back away from this thing, I honor him. I think a lot of his family, I think a lot of his father, I think a lot of what he's brought to football and wish him nothing but the very best.'' Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. ''I hope he becomes President of the United States.''

But after throwing 171 touchdown passes and for nearly 24,000 yards, Luck found football simply wasn't worth the cost.

''I'm exhausted - and quite tired,'' he said during an emotional farewell speech. ''The only way forward is to remove myself from this cycle.''

Player Notes
Cleveland Browns Sep 18 12:20am ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense picked up three sacks in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Cleveland also recovered a Joe Burrow fumble near the Cincinnati goal line in the game, which wasn't as close as the final score indicates. Myles Garrett led the way as he was the one who forced the Burrow fumble on a sack in the third quarter. The Browns offense cashed in on that turnover two plays later on a Nick Chubb one-yard touchdown run. Cleveland's defense has another plus matchup in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

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Odell Beckham Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught four of his six targets for 74 yards and a touchdown in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Beckham and Baker Mayfield connected for a pretty 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Cleveland their second TD of the evening. That went in the books as Beckham's first score of the 2020 season. The star receiver has now drawn 16 targets through the first two games of the season, totalling seven catches for 96 yards. He will be a solid WR2 in Week 3 when he faces the Washington Football Team.

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Michael Pittman Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Indianapolis Colts rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (toe) was a limited practice participant on Thursday after not showing up on the injury report on Wednesday. Pittman should be good to go on Sunday against the Vikings as long as he doesn't have any setbacks. The talented big-bodied receiver played fewer snaps than Zach Pascal in the season opener, finishing with two catches for only 10 yards in his NFL debut. Even if tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) doesn't play, Pittman is too far down the pecking order in Indy's passing game to be considered a viable fantasy starter in most leagues.

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Jarvis Landry Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught three of his four targets for 46 yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was a quiet game for Landry, who can normally be counted upon to see more than four targets in most games. That being said, the Cleveland offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski wants to be run-heavy, which will cut into Landry's looks. Landry has caught eight of 10 targets for 107 scoreless yards through the first two games of the season. He will take on the Washington Football Team in Week 3.

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Duke Johnson Sep 18 12:10am ET

Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson (ankle) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday for the second straight day. Johnson was listed as week-to-week after suffering an ankle injury last Thursday in the season opener, but it looks as though he's made some quick progress. However, even if the 27-year-old winds up playing against a nasty Ravens Defense this week, he'll be a desperation flex play in PPR leagues. Buddy Howell is set to be the primary backup to David Johnson if Duke Johnson has to sit this one out.

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Austin Hooper Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper caught two of four targets for 21 scoreless yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was another quiet game for Hooper, who only caught two passes for 15 yards in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. There was some hope he would have more chances in Week 2 after David Njoku was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. It didn't help that the Browns only attempted 23 passes in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. With just four catches for 36 yards through two games, Hooper is slipping into low-end TE2 territory in fantasy. He will look to rebound in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

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Nick Chubb Sep 18 12:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb carried the ball 22 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Chubb also tacked on a nine-yard reception on the way to Cleveland's first win of the season. It was an excellent performance for Chubb, who had a quiet game in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He capped off Cleveland's first drive with an 11-yard TD run and then scored on a one-yard plunge in the third. Chubb now has 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns after the first two weeks of the season. He will be a strong play in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

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Kareem Hunt Sep 18 12:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt had a big day in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Hunt carried the ball 10 times for 86 yards and a score while adding two catches for 15 yards and another TD in the winning effort. Hunt got wide open behind the closest defender on his touchdown reception, an easy six-yard grab near the right pylon toward the end of the second quarter. He later tacked on what would be Cleveland's final score on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. The veteran running back has been busy over Cleveland's first two games, racking up 23 rushes and six receptions. The new Cleveland coaching staff seems more inclined to use Hunt than the previous regime did in 2019, which bodes well for his fantasy value going forward. Hunt will be a solid option in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

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Jack Doyle Sep 18 12:00am ET

Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday. The Pro Bowl tight end is now in serious doubt to play in Week 2 against the Vikings. With Trey Burton already on the shelf with an injury, Mo Alie-Cox would be forced into a starting role if Doyle can't suit up this weekend. Doyle played 54 offensive snaps in the Week 1 loss to the Jaguars and was targeted four times, finishing with three catches for 49 yards. For now, consider Doyle a very shaky TE2 this weekend. He'll need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at playing. Receivers T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. could see more targets if Doyle is inactive.

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Diontae Johnson Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (ankle) and wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Diontae Johnson (toe) all returned to practice on Thursday. Conner, who was an injury disappointment in 2019, was injured in the season opener and gave way to an efficient Benny Snell Jr. If Conner can avoid setbacks on Friday, he should be ready to go for Week 2 against the Broncos, although it's fair to wonder how much time he'll split with Snell. Snell will be the more attractive RB3/flex for fantasy managers until the Steelers show that they're willing to go back to Conner as the featured back. Smith-Schuster and Johnson should both be fine and could both feast against a young and inexperienced Denver secondary. Smith-Schuster had two touchdowns in Week 1 and is a must-start WR1. Johnson is more of a WR3/flex with upside now that Ben Roethlisberger is back and healthy.

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Baker Mayfield Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 16 of 23 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Mayfield was effective in the win, finding Odell Beckham Jr. for a 43-yard score in the second quarter and a wide-open Kareem Hunt for a six-yard touchdown right before the half. It was a much-needed outing for Mayfield, who had begun to hear whispers that his starting job wasn't safe after a Week 1 loss. Mayfield heads into Week 3's showdown with the Washington Football Team with three touchdowns and two interceptions through two games.

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John Brown Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (foot) returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Barring a setback, Brown should be expected to suit up in Week 2 against the Dolphins. The 30-year-old had six catches on a team-high 10 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the Jets, but he should see a lot of cornerback Byron Jones this Sunday. Brown beat Miami for three touchdowns in his two meetings with them last year, but things might be a bit more difficult this time around. Don't forget that Stefon Diggs is Buffalo's top wideout. Treat Brown as a WR3/flex this week and don't expect a repeat of his Week 1 numbers.

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C.J. Uzomah Sep 17 11:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) has been declared out for the Thursday night game after leaving the contest on a cart with an Achilles injury. The only good news here is that Uzomah had four receptions on six targets for 42 yards and a touchdown before departing with what looks to be a serious injury. He finished second on the team in receiving yards (45) in Week 1, too, catching four of his five targets. If Uzomah is forced to miss considerable time, Drew Sample should step in as the primary pass-catching tight end for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. A long-term injury would also likely mean more targets for the receiving corps of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and John Ross.

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Amari Cooper Sep 17 11:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday, while left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) sat out. With La'el Collins and Cam Erving already on Injured Reserve, Smith's injury is one to watch heading into Week 2 against the Falcons. Cooper should be good to go this weekend as long as he doesn't suffer a setback in practice on Friday. If he were to sit out on Sunday, rookie CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup would see more targets in the passing game, especially with tight end Blake Jarwin out for the season. But if Cooper is active as expected, he'll be a surefire WR1 against a defense that was carved up by Russell Wilson in Week 1.

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Robert Woods Sep 17 11:20pm ET

On the heels of Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp's long-term contract extension, head coach Sean McVay said that the team wants to give wide receiver Robert Woods an extension next. "We want to get him extended, too. He's a huge part of what we're doing. So, that's something that, I think, is definitely important," McVay said. Woods had six catches for 105 yards in the Week 1 win over the Cowboys, and the 28-year-old has back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Kupp might be quarterback Jared Goff's favorite target, but Woods isn't far behind. He has a consistent target share in this offense and is one of the safest WR2 options in football. Against a leaky Philly secondary, Woods has WR1 upside in Week 2.

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Clyde Edwards-Helaire Sep 17 11:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 138 yards in his first NFL game and leads the league in that department after just one week, but the young back needs to improve near the goal line. He gained minus-two yards on six carries in goal-to-go situations against the Texans. Running backs coach Deland McCullough suggested that the rookie would remain the team's goal-line back in Week 2 against the Chargers. "Although it was a good performance, he knows he left some things out there on the field that could have helped us to be better," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. Fantasy managers shouldn't worry, as CEH should continue to see a big workload. He's a must-start each and every week in this explosive Chiefs offense.

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Michael Thomas Sep 17 11:10pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) missed practice for the second straight day and is unlikely to play in Week 2 against the Raiders on Monday night at this point while dealing with a high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 1. It's a really tough blow for those that took the All-Pro wideout in the first round of their fantasy drafts, but you'll have to be patient as he works his way back. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook should be the team's top receivers with Thomas on the shelf, with Tre'Quan Smith serving as the No. 2 receiver behind Sanders. Veteran quarterback Drew Brees will have a lower ceiling without his go-to target in the fold, but he could still put up QB1 numbers on Monday night.

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Miles Sanders Sep 17 11:00pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (hamstring) practiced in full for the second straight day on Thursday, making it likely that he'll make his season debut in Week 2 against the Rams. Sanders was inactive for the season-opening upset to the Washington Football Team, with backup Boston Scott and company unable to get much going on the ground. With Alshon Jeffery still out with an injury and rookie Jalen Reagor being eased into things with his injury, Sanders should see plenty of work in his season debut, assuming he's close to full strength. Against a Rams Defense that was gashed by Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1, Sanders is a borderline RB1 this week.

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James Robinson Sep 17 8:20pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson had a strong NFL debut in Week 1, rushing for 62 yards on 16 carries and adding a 28-yard reception. He played 68 percent of Jacksonville's snaps. While this Week 2 game against the Titans isn't prime for Robinson to have a breakout performance, his projected role gives him a relatively high floor and makes him worth a look as a fantasy flex option. No one else on the active roster right now should challenge Robinson for the job as the early-down back.

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D.J. Chark Sep 17 8:20pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. caught a touchdown in Week 1, but also was targeted just three times, catching all of them for 25 yards. Against a good Titans Defense this week, Chark's got a lot of downside. His low volume of work last week could be an anomaly, but it could also signal that quarterback Gardner Minshew II is set to spread the ball around this season, limiting the upside of each of his weapons. Chark's still the top fantasy receiver here, but there's a lot more risk than there was in 2019, even if it's really tough to justify sitting the third-year wideout.

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