Colts must adjust offseason approach while Andrew Luck rehabs; they aren’t alone

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 24: Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts fist bumps Phillip Dorsett #15 during a timeout of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We’re quickly approaching the Are you ready for some football? portion of the NFL calendar.

The Indianapolis Colts, eager to put a second consecutive non-playoff season behind them, open their nine-week offseason conditioning program April 17. The highlights include a rookie minicamp (May 12-14); organized team activities (OTAs), which begin May 22 and are voluntary; and June 13-15 veterans’ minicamp, which is mandatory.

All that will be missing when the Colts hit the practice field for serious preparation is the most important Colt.

That would be Andrew Luck. The NFL’s $140 million quarterback is in rehab mode after undergoing surgery in mid-January to repair a partially-torn labrum in his right shoulder. As everyone knows, that’s Luck’s business shoulder.

No one is offering a projection for when Luck will gain medical clearance and resume throwing. Maybe it’s near the tail end of the OTAs. Maybe it’s during the month-long hiatus leading up to training camp, which opens in late July.

“It’s hard to pin that down for sure,’’ owner Jim Irsay said. “I would say that certainly he should be pretty close to being ready and really throwing it around pretty damn well once training camp comes. That’s the way the doctors feel right now.

“He’s not in that mode yet. Once we get rolling around late preseason and getting into the regular season, he’s going to feel great.’’

This much we know: the Colts won’t accelerate the process. Their future – short- and long-term – depends on Luck making a full recovery.

This much we also know: there’s always a reason for concern when a quarterback has surgery on his throwing arm/shoulder. And that concern will remain until we see Luck on the field wingin’ it with ease and without discomfort.

One more thing we know: it’s never a good thing when a team is without its starting quarterback for an extended time. The offseason is when adjustments are made in the offensive scheme and timing between quarterbacks and receivers is sharpened.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll deal with it,’’ coach Chuck Pagano told reporters at the recent owners meetings in Phoenix. “Andrew is doing great. He’s in that facility dawn to dusk. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do from a rehab standpoint. He’s on schedule.’’

The decision for Luck to undergo surgery rather than hope extended rest would remedy the right-shoulder issue was not made casually.

“There was a lot of discussion,’’ Pagano said. “(We felt surgery) was the best thing for Andrew and our organization moving forward. We know he’s going to make a complete recovery and be the best version of Andrew that we’ve seen.’’

Until then, the Colts’ offense rests in the hands of Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris. It’s likely a fourth quarterback will be added prior to training camp since Luck’s workload undoubtedly will be limited.

Pagano was asked if it’s unsettling to be without Luck during the offseason.

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t,’’ he said. “I can’t lie to you. Yeah, you want to have your guy available and you want to have him year around.

“We’ve got to adapt. That’s what great teams and great organizations have to do. You have to adapt and you have to adjust on the fly, so we’ll do that.’’

Not that it’s any comfort, but the Colts aren’t the only team dealing with an ailing QB during the offseason. A quick recap:

CAM NEWTON, Carolina:

The NFL’s 2015 MVP had surgery March 30 on his right arm to repair a partially-torn rotator cuff. He suffered the injury Dec. 11 against San Diego and opted for surgery after experiencing increased pain despite extended rest. Newton’s timeline seems to mirror Luck’s.

While he’s not expected to begin throwing until late July or early August, Newton will be heavily involved in meetings and working with the other quarterbacks and offensive personnel during the offseason program.

DEREK CARR, Oakland:

The Raiders’ championship hopes essentially ended when Carr suffered a broken right fibula Dec. 24 against the Colts. General manager Reggie McKenzie told reporters at the owners meetings Carr would be “good to go’’ for Oakland’s offseason work.

Coach Jack Del Rio agreed.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to take it easy,’’ he said. “He’s fired up. He’s doing well. I think he’s really excited about where it is and how the rehab is going. We expect to have him for all the OTAs and everything.’’

MARCUS MARIOTA, Tennessee:

The Titans’ main man shared the Dec. 24 headlines with Carr when he fractured his right fibula against Jacksonville.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey told reporters Mariota’s injury was “more extensive’’ than Carr’s. The team is confident Mariota will be ready for training camp and hasn’t ruled out limited participant during OTAs.

“He is very upbeat. He can’t wait to get back,’’ Mularkey said. “And we monitor every day what he does.

“We’re just going to listen to doctors, listen to Marcus and see how he feels. We are just going to wait and see . . . and we have time. I am not going to push him. Marcus is working hard, and hopefully he’ll be back sooner than later.

“If we have to adjust some things we do in practice to what he is capable of doing, we’ll do that. As long as he is ready to go week 1 that is all that matters to the team.’’

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