This is how nice of a guy Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is.
Back in the summer of 2015, when Luck was the hottest thing in Indiana besides the 500 bricks after three straight Pro Bowl seasons in his first three NFL seasons, he sat down for lunch with a high school senior. Small world. Jessie Bates III, the Bengals rookie free safety that Lucked out that day, makes his first NFL start in Indianapolis Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against him.
Luck was in Fort Wayne headlining an NFL Play 60 camp and the league gathered local high school players headed to college football to work the camp. During the lunch break they ended up at the same table and the way Bates remembered it Thursday after practice it was just him and Luck.
"Nice guy. Really nice guy. I remember he had mayonnaise on the side of his face the whole time," Bates said. "That's Andrew. He's a regular guy. He asked me about where I was going to school and my family."
Not only is he suddenly playing against him three years later, Bates is the first rookie safety to start for the Bengals on Opening Day since Tremain Mack in 1997. That also makes Bates the first Opening Day starting rookie safety in the 16 Marvin Lewis openers, which tells you how good they think he is. And Bates knows how good Luck is, even though they don't know much about the offense he's running because new Colts head coach Frank Reich has ripped up everything.
But since Reich's last stop was as offensive coordinator of the Eagles, you have to figure the Bengals have been watching some Super Bowl tape.
"It's almost chasing ghosts right now," said Bates of trying to anticipate the Xs and Os. "Obviously they're doing stuff he likes. He's very intelligent, so they do things that make him comfortable. He's not just a quarterback. He's athletic. It's his first game in two years, so we have to get him off the field and make him uncomfortable. The longer he's out there, the more he'll get a feel for it."
Bates figures a group of about 60-70 are converging on Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday to watch him, ranging from his family to high school teachers. And, of course, the guy with mayo on his face.
"It's cool now I'm playing against him," Bates said.
INJURY UPDATE: With the return of wide receiver Cody Core (back) to the field Thursday, the Bengals had everyone at practice Thursday. Core, left tackle Cordy Glenn (shoulder) and cornerback Tony McRae (ankle) were all limited. Safety Clayton Fejedelem went full despite a calf issue. For the Colts, left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) went limited for the second straight day and running back Marlon Mack (hamstring) went back to practice limited.