Colts’ Andrew Luck sees the ‘finish line’ in return to playing field

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The look on the faces of Ryan Kelly and Jack Mewhort, along with their body language, spoke volumes Thursday. Normalcy is returning to the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s gradual and oft-times frustratingly slow, but it’s returning nonetheless.

Andrew Luck, out of the loop for so long as he’s methodically attacked his rehab following January surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, was back at his locker room cubicle.

There went the neighborhood.

Luck’s locker is flanked by Mewhort and Kelly. Whenever the Colts’ $140 million quarterback holds court, it’s virtually impossible for either of his offensive linemen to have access to his personal space.

“I can deal with this,’’ Mewhort said. “I just want him back.’’

Luck was encircled by the media and spent 5 minutes offering an update on his progress through “the process’’ and the importance of adhering to that process and not taking any shortcuts at this point.

“I think we’re progressing along the plan nicely and it would be foolish to start getting close to the finish line and skipping a little,’’ Luck said.

Does he know where the finish line is? He’s obviously been ruled out of Monday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

“I think I do. Yeah, I do,’’ Luck said.

Would you care to share that?

“I’m not going to give any credence to any guess to when that would be,’’ he said with a smile.

It’s unlikely Luck will be cleared to play for the Oct. 22 home game with Jacksonville. Maybe Oct. 29 at Cincinnati or Nov. 5 at Houston.

Luck practiced for the first time since December on a limited basis twice last week, and that’s the plan again Thursday and Saturday with a slightly increased workload. He was expected go through positional drills, throw routes versus air (RVAs) and handle “five, six snaps of 7-on-7, the Tennessee offense versus our defense,’’ according to Chuck Pagano.

“He’ll have a specific route tree, a pitch count. It’ll be scripted. It won’t be a bunch of play-action passes where (Marcus) Mariota’s throwing maybe 60 yards down field.’’

During the early portion of Thursday’s practice open to the media, Luck had progressed noticeably over last week. He delivered passes 30-40 yards down the field.

“We’re obviously doing more,’’ Pagano said. “He’s getting better, getting stronger.’’

Pagano added Luck is eager to shoulder the heavier workload, and more.

“If we would let him, he’d suit up,’’ he said. “There’s no timetable yet.’’

Perhaps most important to Luck is each subsequent step means he’s getting closer to actually playing football. Previously, he’s worked with the rehab staff and not faced a pass rush or had to deal with a congested passing pocket.

“You start to get into environments where all the variables are not controlled, which is obviously football to a certain degree,’’ Luck said. “Every step at this point is a substantial step, and I’m excited for that.’’

Luck admitted he’s still re-learning to trust his body and his right shoulder. He suffered the posterior tear to the labrum in week 3 of the 2015 season at Tennessee.

The shoulder, he said, “feels different. It’s still finding its way a little bit again. Certain things feel better. Some things (are) still finding its way. It’s a process and we’re still in that process of getting it to a point where it needs to be.’’

Does he trust his right arm?

“I trust my arm more today that I did yesterday,’’ Luck said. “That’s how it has to be every day, every week going forward.’’

The more Luck talked, the more it became clear the inactivity is eating at him.

“There is certainly a big part of me that wants to be out there, but I understand that’s not the case right now,’’ he said. “I know when I come into the building every day that it used to be, ‘How can I do my job well to make this team better?’ Now it’s, ‘How can I give 100 percent to make myself better?’

“Hopefully that switch can flip at some point here.’’

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