Colts quarterback Andrew Luck shocks NFL by deciding to retire

INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck watched one last game from the sideline Saturday.

Then he said goodbye to the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback heard boos as he walked away from the field, then walked to the podium and made the surprise decision official. The oft-injured star, a two-time All-American at Stanford, is retiring at age 29.

“I’m in pain, I’m still in pain. It’s been four years of this pain/rehab cycle,” Luck said. “It’s a myriad of issues — calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, high ankle sprain. Part of my journey going forward will be figuring out how to feel better.”

Luck wasn’t planning to make the announcement following Saturday’s 27-17 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears. But when ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the news, saying during the fourth quarter that Luck was “mentally worn down,” Luck changed the plan. He held a 25-minute impromptu news conference.

At times he sounded wistful. At others, his voice cracked with emotion. One thing was clear: The endless barrage of injuries stripped away his joy for the game and prompted him to walk away so he could enjoy the life he wants.

“I’ve been stuck in this process,” Luck said. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game. … The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.”

The starter will be Jacoby Brissett, a fourth-year player whom the Colts acquired in a cutdown weekend trade with the Patriots two years ago. He went 4-11 as a starter in the 2017 season after taking over for opening day starter Scott Tolzien.

Luck was diagnosed with a strained left calf in March, and team officials kept him out of the team’s offseason workouts. He returned to limited action when training camp opened in late July. After three practices, the lingering pain near his ankle forced him back into rehab. He hadn’t practiced since, though he did throw passes in pregame warm-ups before last week’s preseason game.

It wasn’t just the leg. He played with shoulder pain for most of 2015 and 2016, and his 2015 season ended when he suffered a lacerated kidney. He missed all of 2017 following shoulder surgery.

“This is not an easy decision,” Luck said. “It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”

Richard Sherman, the 49ers cornerback who played with Luck at Stanford, wished his former teammate the best after the Niners’ 27-17 preseason win in Kansas City.

“It’s unfortunate,” Sherman said. “He’s a guy that plays the game the right way and does everything he can to be on the field. And, unfortunately, he must have got beat up pretty bad if he’s hanging them up. But he’s had a great career, and I look forward to seeing what’s next for him.”

Luck led the Colts to the playoffs his first three seasons, including to the AFC Championship Game after the 2014 season. Luck returned last season and led the Colts back to the playoffs for the first time in four years, winning the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award.

Even with his injury problems, Luck is second in passing TDs after his first six NFL seasons (171, behind Dan Marino’s 196) and third in passing yards after six seasons — 23,671, behind his predecessor in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning (24,885) and Marino (23,856).

Chronicle staff writer Eric Branch contributed to this report.

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