INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It had been 277 days since Andrew Luck last shared the practice field with his teammates. That’s a lifetime for someone of his ilk.
Then, Wednesday afternoon.
There Luck was, finally, with his quarterback brethren – Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien, Phillip Walker – and T.Y. Hilton and Ryan Kelly and Frank Gore and the rest of his Indianapolis Colts teammates.
Before going through warm-up drills with the QBs, taking snaps and casually lofting passes in front of the media for the first time in more than nine months, Luck and position coach Brian Schottenheimer shared a few words. At one point, they exchanged a fist bump.
The face of the Colts, their $140 million quarterback, was taking the next step in his recovery from January surgery to repair a tear to the posterior labrum in his right shoulder.
“I felt I was ready for that jump,’’ Luck said in his first comments since the Colts opened training camp July 29.
He took a few seconds to savor the moment. The extended time away gave Luck a better appreciation for what he had been missing, “those little things’’ as he put it.
“I know it’s cliché, but you do take those things for granted,’’ he Luck. “And then to just put a helmet on and have a jersey with a 12 on it and get to go out and warm up with the guys and throw a couple of passes and do some drills in a team setting was fun.
“And more important, it’s part of me getting back into the swing of things, into being a quarterback, into being a quarterback for this team.’’
That’s the reason for the fuss at the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center on West 56th Street.
Not surprisingly, Chuck Pagano ruled Luck out of Sunday’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck wouldn’t put a timetable on when he might return to the lineup – “I think that’s unfair to myself,’’ he said – but made it clear that time will come sooner rather than later.
Can you say with any certainty you’ll play this season?
“Oh, yeah,’’ he said with a smile.
“I wish I would wake up tomorrow morning and feel incredible and the whole thing was a dream. But I know that’s not the case and I know that’s not the reality. And I understood when I elected to have surgery to try not to be surprised by anything and understand it’s going to be a long process . . . a really, really long process.’’
It’s highly doubtful Luck will be ready for the Oct. 16 trip to Tennessee, and the Oct. 22 home game with Jacksonville seems a 50-50 proposition at best. A more likely return: Oct. 29 at Cincinnati or Nov. 5 at Houston.
Luck’s practice reps will be closely monitored for the next few weeks, and he’ll have Thursday off to allow the doctors and trainers an opportunity to gauge how his right shoulder responded to practice.
But Wednesday was the next necessary step, and a major one. It was the first time he played pitch-and-catch with Hilton and other receivers since the Jan. 1 season finale against Jacksonville. Prior to that, he tested the receiving stills of the rehab and equipment staffs.
Luck conceded there’s work to do. He’s still working to strengthen his right shoulder and arm.
“I’ve got work to get to the level to where I feel comfortable going out there and whippin’ every throw,’’ he said. “That’s part of the process. It’s part of why now I’m starting to integrate back into practice because certain things I can do and feel pretty darned good doing.
“I feel like we’re at the point where we’re pushing the strength . . . Can I make all the throws and can I make them at the NFL level? That’s what we’re still working on.’’
Luck made it a point to address a couple of issues.
- Have there been any setbacks during the rehab? “No, I do not think there have been any setbacks at all. On schedule. It’s my first time having a shoulder surgery. This is foreign land for me in a sense, so everything is quite new. I do feel like I’ve progressed.
“We have never really put out a schedule per se of ‘Have to do this.’ There have been goals and those goals have been time-oriented, with dates, and we’ve managed to meet those goals. But as far as a schedule, I think that’s sort of a dangerous word to use in regards to coming back as a quarterback with a throwing shoulder surgery.’’
- The recent mention he wasn’t happy in Indy: “It’s not true. And the reason for me not responding when it comes up is because it’s not true. A lot of things are not true and I don’t respond to those things. That’s false. We live in an age where a lot of people have platforms to say a lot of things and a lot of it is not true. Some of it is.’’
In the end, Wednesday was all the Colts being closer to having their most indispensible player back.
“Oh, man, it’s big seeing our leader back out there,’’ running back Frank Gore said. “It’s a big plus for us seeing him back in uniform, throwing the ball around.
“That’s our leader; 12, I respect him. He’s one of the guys who loves the game, respects the game, plays the game the right way. I can’t wait to see him out there.’’
The wait is over.