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Associated Press
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck is hit by Chicago defensive tackle Matt Toeaina during Sunday’s game in Chicago. The Colts are stressing the importance of protecting their rookie quarterback after he was sacked three times in Week 1.

Harding grad to help protect Luck

– Indianapolis is going to protect Andrew Luck at all costs.

Even if that means shaking things up this season.

After watching their new franchise quarterback hit the ground far too often in Sunday’s 41-21 loss at Chicago, general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano wasted no time in sending a message to the Colts’ offensive line: Things must improve.

“Every play matters,” right guard Mike McGlynn said Wednesday. “You can’t have four guys playing and one guy messing up. You have to have five playing together.”

But there are bigger problems, and Grigson is again trying to fix those by tinkering with the roster.

On Monday, he waived tackle Mike Person and center A.Q. Shipley and brought in former Steelers guard Trai Essex, a Harding graduate. On Tuesday, Indianapolis signed 320-pound rookie tackle Bradley Sowell from Tampa Bay’s practice squad and re-signed Shipley to the practice squad.

Essex could plug a major need this weekend.

He spent the last seven years in Pittsburgh, the last five working with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. The Steelers cut Essex during the final cutdown. Arians is running a similar offense in Indianapolis, so Essex knows it better than anyone already on the Colts’ roster.

“This is my first day of practice, so we’ll see what he (offensive line coach Harold Goodwin) has for me right now,” Essex said.

“It’s an offense that I’m familiar with obviously. It’s still a different system, a different program.”

Sure, there are explanations for last weekend’s rocky start.

The Colts (0-1) are learning a new offense, have a new quarterback and center calling plays, and Sunday’s game marked the first time that the starting linemen – Anthony Castonzo, Seth Olsen, Samson Satele, McGlynn and Winston Justice – played together extensively on game day.

Still, giving up three sacks, a rash of other hits on Luck and rushing for only 63 yards simply wasn’t good enough. And an encore certainly won’t get the job done this week when Minnesota (1-0) comes to town with Jared Allen, the league’s reigning sacks champ, and a defense that produced a league-high 50 sacks in 2011.

“The first game was a big, big experience for us, and a lot of guys can learn from it,” said Satele, whose 75 career starts are more than last Sunday’s other four starters had combined (66). “It will be a lot different this week.”

If the Colts are going to keep the top draft pick, Luck, upright another 15 games, they’re going to need to stay healthy, too. Pagano said this week that left guard Joe Reitz will miss another week with an undisclosed knee injury. Reitz did not practice Wednesday. It’s also unclear if starting right tackle Justice will play after being diagnosed with a concussion in the season opener. Justice did practice Wednesday but was limited.

Notes: Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney is listed as day-to-day with a sprained left ankle but was held out of practice. ... Pagano said receiver Austin Collie (concussion) has been cleared to practice and play this week and that receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) should play Sunday. ... To make room for Shipley on the practice squad, receiver Kashif Moore was released.