Indianapolis Colts make protecting quarterback Andrew Luck top priority

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, right, is tackled by Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner during the first half of their preseason game on Thursday in Seattle. (AP photo)

WESTFIELD, Ind. — The Indianapolis Colts invested heavily in Andrew Luck’s protection plan during the offseason.

Now it’s time to see the payoff.

After general manager Chris Ballard added two potential starting offensive linemen in free agency and used two more in the draft, the Colts believe they’ve finally solved their most glaring need — keeping Luck upright and healthy.

“When Chris and I sat down in the beginning and said, how are we building this team, we are building it from the inside-out. That all starts with the offensive line,” coach Frank Reich said. “You win and lose games up front on both sides of the ball.”

Indy learned its lesson the hard way.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck talks to reporters following a preseason game against the Seahawks on Thursday in Seattle. The Colts won 19-17. (AP photo)

Luck endured more than 400 hits from 2012-16, the highest total among NFL quarterbacks. He’s been sacked 156 times in 71 career appearances, an average of 2.2 a game. When Luck missed last season recovering from shoulder surgery, the Colts allowed a league-high 52 sacks.

All those shots eventually took their toll.

Since Luck’s 57-game starting streak ended in Week 4 of the 2015 season, the top overall pick in the 2012 draft has appeared in only 19 of the Colts’ last 45 games. Not surprisingly, they’ve missed the playoffs each of the last three years.

So with Luck finally back from surgery on a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, Ballard made a calculated gamble for another revamped line.

“I think being part of — I don’t want to say a rebuild because it is not really a rebuild of the offensive line — but kind of a mentality shift of an offensive line. I have been part of that at a lot of stops and that is something I pride myself in,” new right guard Matt Slauson said.

The Colts have tried everything to solve this tricky puzzle.

Then, general manager Ryan Grigson wrote a note to himself, “Protect 12,” to remind him of the Colts’ greatest need.