In two NFL seasons, Andrew Luck has done plenty. He’s already set an NFL record with 10 winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime; engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in league history; and been to the playoffs.
One thing he hasn’t done: play in snow.
Actually, Luck, who attended high school in Houston and college at Stanford, hasn’t played in icy conditions in years. That may be about to change. Sunday’s early forecast in Cincinnati is calling for temperatures near the freezing mark and a wintry mix, conditions that can scare off hearty fans and challenge the toughest football players.
Luck’s not among that crowd.
“I probably haven’t played in snow since I was throwing a football around as a kid, so I’m very excited about it,” he said. “I love playing outside. I think there’s something about it that’s fun, so we’re looking forward to it.”
That’s good news for the Colts (8-4), who can clinch the AFC South with a win over the AFC North-leading Bengals (8-4). So will Luck wear gloves or make any other changes for the potentially bad weather?
“I don’t think you want to think about it too much, in a sense,” he said. “I think when you start thinking about that, you’re thinking about the wrong things.”
THE COWBOY WAY: Justin Smith is quite the jokester — among his many other talents on the football field for San Francisco.
The 49ers’ menacing defensive lineman has been at his explosive best entering the December stretch run.
When asked about his pass-rushing move when he goes right through opposing offensive linemen to help set up sacks for himself and teammates, Smith offered this:
“It’s called, ‘I-Wish-I-Had-Another-Move,’” Smith said with a chuckle. “I wish I had a spin move or a speed move or something. It’s all I’ve got at this point.”
The man nicknamed “Cowboy” is not fooling anybody with that kind of talk. Certainly not the rival Seattle Seahawks, who visit Candlestick Park on Sunday trying to clinch the NFC West from the two-time defending division champion Niners.
“Just what Justin Smith always gives you, a great day’s work, he’s tough as you can get,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a great finisher on plays. He can finish late on the pass rush, he can finish late on run plays and make all kinds of stuff happen. A great contributor to the pass rush. He’s always bringing it, and he also helps the other guys get there in famous fashion. He’s helped Aldon (Smith) become a tremendous factor, kind of the way they work together and their rushing.
“He’s a throwback, old-school, hard-nosed guy, man. We have great respect for him.”
HONORING HAWAII: Manti Te’o has always worn a 5 on his back. As a linebacker in the NFL, that was prohibited.
So he added a zero, but for specific reasons — to honor Hawaii.
“At first I was given the option of being either No. 51 or 58, so I chose 51 because it was Dick Butkus’ number,” says Te’o, an All-American from Notre Dame and a second-round draft pick last April by San Diego. “Our equipment manager actually told me later that No. 50 was available and I immediately jumped on it because I felt there was no better way to represent my state than to wear that number.”
Te’o is one of nine players who opened this season on an NFL roster and went to high school in Hawaii. He’s not the first player from the 50th state to go with the number.
“I know that Kaluka Maiava currently wears No. 50 for the Oakland Raiders,” Te’o says. “He is also from Hawaii. Pisa Tinoisamoa wore No. 50 when he was with the Rams. He played at the University of Hawaii a few years ago.”
Te’o isn’t sure if Hawaiians are aware of the reason behind his numerical preference.
“I think most people back home don’t fully know the reasons for me choosing that number,” Te’o says, “but for those who do it’s been great.”
FINALLY A TROPHY: Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had many big moments at Alabama, where he got the nickname “Swag” while helping the Tide win two national titles. It’s taken him two seasons in Cincinnati to finally get an NFL keepsake.
And he’s giving it to his mom.
Kirkpatrick got his first career interception Sunday during a 17-10 win in San Diego, helping the Bengals hold on. He was in for only three plays on defense, but one of them really mattered.
“It was very intense and emotional,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’ve been on a long road, so to get back to playing ball and getting back to making plays feels good.”
The 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft missed most of his rookie season with a concussion and a knee injury. He’s healthy now, but has been mostly relegated to playing special teams. Coach Marvin Lewis pointed to the Bengals’ depth at cornerback as a reason Kirkpatrick is getting so little time on defense.
“These guys aren’t giving up their spots,” Lewis said. “He’s having to earn every bit. When his time comes to be a full-time starting player in the NFL, he will have earned it. That’s a great deal.”
For now, he’s got that one keepsake football from the interception.
“I’m going to give it to my mom,” Kirkpatrick said. “She’ll keep up with it more than me.”
HOT BREES: If Saints quarterback Drew Brees throws for 287 yards against Carolina — a difficult chore given the strength of the Panthers’ defense — he will become the fastest to reach 50,000. He will play in his 183rd game Sunday, and the quickest to reach the mark was Peyton Manning in 191 games.
It took Dan Marino 193 games, Brett Favre 211 and John Elway 229.
Brees would need 1,762 yards in his final four games to reach Elway’s total of 51,475.