ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Andrew Luck isn’t the only one who learned his lesson the last time Indianapolis and Denver played.
The Broncos did, too.
They entered the game with a 7-0 record a week after handing Aaron Rodgers the worst loss of his career, and they followed that by hammering Luck 11 times.
Luck played through the pain and led the Colts to a 27-24 win. Afterward, he went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a season-ending lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle.
“He is tough, we all know that,” said Von Miller, whose 61 career sacks don’t include any of Luck. “He is going to break a couple of tackles and run through a couple of defenders, and he is going to make some great passes. We all know what type of tough guy he is.”
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak sure does.
“Well, that’s Andrew. I know him well from being in Houston there for years and watching him grow up. Heck, I watched him in high school and that’s what he stands for,” Kubiak said. “He plays the game hard and he is going to be there all four quarters, and that’s something we’re preaching to our guys this week.”
While Luck missed the final two months of the season, the Broncos recovered and went on to win Super Bowl 50 thanks to Miller’s two sack-strips of Cam Newton that led to 15 points in Denver’s 24-10 win.
In the offseason, Miller signed a six-year, $114.5 million contract that included $70 million in guarantees, both records for a nonquarterback. The only player with a bigger guarantee is Luck, who signed a six-year, $140 million contract two weeks before Miller that included $87 million in assurances.
Luck is more cognizant now of protecting both his body and team owner Jim Irsay’s investment.
“As a quarterback you have an obligation to be on the field,” Luck said. “That involves taking care of your body. Situationally, there are times when I need to slide or throw the ball away and I’ve been working on that. You’re going to go out there and take a hit if the game’s on the line or in (certain) other situations.
“But I think in every year I’m trying to approach the game in a better, more efficient way. So, I guess this is somewhat of a natural progression, as well.”
The Broncos (1-0) hammered Newton 17 times in their Super Bowl sequel last week, although it took Graham Gano’s missed 50-yard field goal in the closing seconds for them to walk away a 21-20 winner. Two of the hits, by linebacker Brandon Marshall and safety Darian Stewart, drew fines from the NFL .
The Broncos insist they won’t change their style in light of the consequences or criticism.
“No, that’s part of the game,” Miller said. “When you step outside the boundaries you get fined. We did that a couple of times. It’s kind of hard to differentiate what’s right and what’s wrong (during play), and everybody is moving around. Afterward, you get fined for the wrong plays and you just try to make it right and just try to keep playing.”
Usually, the cumulative effect of Denver’s hard hits show on the QB’s face and body language by the fourth quarter.
“With a quarterback like Andrew Luck, it really doesn’t because after every hit he is shaking guys’ hands and congratulating them,” Miller said. “They should, but not going up against No. 12.”
Miller hasn’t been able to sack Luck in three regular-season meetings and one playoff game. He said their O-line is stout, tackles Joe Reitz and Anthony Castonzo are solid, and their scheme is sound.
“It’s just tough to get to Andrew Luck,” Miller said, “and when you get to him it’s tough to bring him down with the ball.”
NOTES: WR Demaryius Thomas (sore left hip) looked smoother at Friday’s practice than he did all week. DE Derek Wolfe (neck) returned to practice. … The Broncos will unveil signage at their stadium Sunday honoring those with retired jerseys: No. 7 for John Elway, No. 44 for Floyd Little and No. 18 for Frank Tripucka, whose sign will also include a mention of Peyton Manning. Four years ago Tripucka gave Manning his blessing to use the number he’d worn from 1960-63.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton