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Colts backup Hasselbeck sees the skill — and more — in Luck

Veteran quarterback knows the challenge of trying to keep pace mentally and physically with last year's No. 1 pick from Stanford.

October 05, 2013|Sam Farmer
  • Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton talks with Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck in the second half of a 24-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins last month.
Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton talks with Indianapolis Colts… (Sam Riche / McClatchy-Tribune )

We see one side of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck — the maturity, athleticism and solid decision-making.

His backup, veteran Matt Hasselbeck, has an inside perspective on Luck, and knows the challenge of attempting to keep pace both mentally and physically with last year's No. 1 pick from Stanford.

"There's no doubt to me that Andrew's going to be one of the great players of all time," said Hasselbeck, who backed up Brett Favre in Green Bay and is the only quarterback to lead the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. "He's a great talent. He's driven. He gets it, unbelievably humble. He's not about the things that get guys in trouble."

Pep Hamilton is offensive coordinator of the Colts, and had the same role at Stanford when Luck was there. So, from Hasselbeck's perspective, those two speak a foreign language, one that often sounds like a Dr. Seuss book.

"It's like I'm learning French or Spanish," said Hasselbeck, 38, whose team plays host to the Seahawks on Sunday. "We've got all these words that rhyme, like 'cash' and 'trash,' 'curl' and 'swirl.' And Andrew will say, 'Just remember: On a curl and a swirl, you've got the same route by the running back.'

"I had this talk with his dad, Oliver, and he said, 'Thanks for mentoring our son,' or however he said it. I was like, 'Hey, you've got to know, I am wearing him out with questions.'"

Hasselbeck spent the past two seasons with Tennessee as a part-time starter and a mentor to young Jake Locker before becoming a free agent this off-season. Hasselbeck's agent asked him to rank his priorities, so they could find the proper fit in a new team.

"Starting was very important to me," he said. "But after the year we had last year [when the Titans finished 6-10], my No. 1 thing was I wanted to be on a team that was relevant in January. And if I was going to be backing up, I wanted to be backing up a very talented player."

So when the Colts came calling, Hasselbeck was ready to listen. Intellectually, it has been the most daunting challenge of his career.

"I sometimes wonder — and I've said this out loud to them — 'I'm struggling with this, I really am. I study so hard, and I still feel like I'm barely with this thing. So if you didn't sign me, who the heck were you going to sign?'

"I also joke with them, 'If anything ever happens to him, I just want you to know, we need to dumb this thing down.' It's so funny, because my whole career I've been begging for more and more, and now I'm just like, 'Can we just go out and play?'"

Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, also a No. 1 pick from Stanford, frequently noted before the 2012 draft that Luck would call three plays in the huddle, and his teammates were expected to be up to speed.

"Well," Hasselbeck said, "now we're up to five plays."

Dr. Seuss would be proud.

Never surrender

Twenty-one times this season, teams that trailed in the fourth quarter have come back to win. That's tied for the second most in NFL history through four weeks, and two fewer than the record set in 2011.

Unbelievable U-turn

The Kansas City Chiefs join the 1980 Detroit Lions as the only teams to start 4-0 after finishing the previous season with at least 14 losses.

Quite a grip

Tennessee, which plays host to the Chiefs on Sunday, has made it through the first four weeks without a turnover. The 1995 St. Louis Rams are the only other team to accomplish that over the first month of a season.

A jolt for the Titans came in a 34-12 loss to Chicago last November, when they had five turnovers and lost four of six fumbles.

"That kind of woke us up last year when that happened to us," Titans Coach Mike Munchak told reporters. "We didn't think that could happen to us, to fumble as many times as we did in one game."

First-team All-DVR

Since the 2011 season, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch leads the NFL with 16 100-yard games. His 2,839 yards since Week 9 of that season also is tops in the league.

Said his mom, Delisa: "I tell him, 'I know you're tired because I have you running back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.'

"I keep pushing the rewind button."

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