Colts’ Matt Hasselbeck stiff, sore, but back at practice

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Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Indianapolis Colts passes during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Colts 45-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (December 9, 2015) – The dichotomy of the quarterbacks’ media scrums in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room Wednesday was telling.

The one who won’t suit up for Sunday’s critical trip to Jacksonville – Andrew Luck – was upbeat and, relatively speaking, free from pain.

“Getting better, feeling better . . . so definitely trending upward, trending in the right direction,’’ he said.

Luck has yet to return to practice, but revealed he continues to ramp up the intensity of his workouts and the number of throws he makes each day. There still is no timetable for his return from a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle, but the Dec. 27 trip to Miami seems most likely.

By contrast, the quarterback in immediate control of the Colts’ December playoff push – 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck – still was feeling the effects of Sunday’s visit to Pittsburgh. Hasselbeck took his normal workload at practice, but admitted he did so while in some degree of discomfort. He suffered a neck injury and a mild rib separation while being knocked around by the Steelers.

Hasselbeck attempted to lighten the moment when asked how he felt as the Colts began their on-field preparation for the Jaguars.

“The sun was out. We were on grass,’’ he said with a smile. “It was all good.’’

Then, things got serious.

Not only was Hasselbeck uncertain if he would be ready for Wednesday’s practice, he wondered whether he could play against Jacksonville.

“I wasn’t really sure,’’ he said. “Just kind of an awkward injury.’’

Hasselbeck sustained the neck injury in the third quarter when Steelers’ defensive lineman Cameron Heyward drove center Jon Harrison back into him. As he crumpled to the ground, the entire force of the 288-pound Heyward crashed down on Hasselbeck’s head.

“This is probably the first Monday and Tuesday where I haven’t felt well,’’ he said. “I was really stiff and sore. Took kind of an awkward hit to the top of the head. Jacked my neck up pretty good.

“Usually (when) I have had an injury before, I kind of knew what it would take or how long it would take. This is just different. Not really sure.

“I’ve been really fortunate this season. Monday mornings have been fine, felt pretty good. Probably just a matter of time ‘til I had this. You don’t need to feel good Monday or Tuesday. Just got to feel good Wednesday and more importantly on Sunday.’’

In many instances, when a player is dealing with an injury, the true barometer of his status moving forward is how his body responds after that first practice.

Hasselbeck was asked if he’s certain he’ll be ready for the Jaguars, or if there’s another benchmark to clear.

“Today was the big day,’’ he said, “so (I) would obviously have to come in and hope to not have a setback (Thursday).

“Today went a lot better than I thought it would go. That’s good.’’

Coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday’s practice was no different from previous ones. Hasselbeck was given a few series off, but otherwise “took a lion’s share of the snaps.’’

Is he optimistic Hasselbeck will be ready for Sunday?

“Absolutely. He’s a warrior,’’ Pagano said.

Luck, meanwhile, continued to work on the periphery. His latest regimen includes running “gassers.’’

“You’ve got to get in shape if you want to play a football game,’’ Luck said. “There’s steps to get there and that’s definitely a big part of the step and the preparation.

“There’s a plan and it’s developed by our training room, our coaches, the support staff and you follow that plan. It’s not like we’re going out there and winging it just to throw, so we probably increased the amount of throws. Maybe it started at 20, 30 and gone up to 50 on a different intensity.’’

Luck again declined to offer a timetable for his return, but emphasized he will need a handful of practices to knock off any rust that’s accumulated while he’s been out.

“It’ll take a couple of days,’’ he said. “I’ve always been a big believer in practice, and how important that is to a quarterback and to any player, really. I’m going to try to do the best I can when that time is with practice, but I don’t anticipate it being like I haven’t been out, in a sense.

“It’ll take a couple of days, I’m sure, but once I get in the swing of it, I think I’ll be alright.’’

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