INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Months of uncertainty and speculation ended Thursday. So did any chance of Andrew Luck returning this season.
The Indianapolis Colts gave in to what was becoming an inevitability – a lingering rehabilitation and a season running out of weeks – when they placed their $140 million quarterback on the season-ending injured reserve list.
The decision came after Luck sought the advice of several shoulder specialists when soreness from the throwing portion of his rehabilitation from January shoulder surgery persisted despite a cortisone injection.
“The consensus from all the doctors is to continue rehab, to be patient and continue to rehab,’’ general manager Chris Ballard said.
That’s the short-term plan. Ballard insisted another surgical procedure is not required.
“Right now it’s just strictly rehab,’’ he said.
With Luck’s sixth season wiped out, the question: Where does he go from here? What’s the long-term view of a career that began with three consecutive 11-5 records and three playoff berths?
Ballard was quick to dismiss speculation Luck’s injury – a partially-torn posterior labrum suffered Sept. 27, 2015 against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville – possibly is career-threateningg.
“That’s not the case here,’’ he said. “I’ve not got that from one doctor. Career-ending is putting him out on the field before he’s ready to play. That’s where you should be concerned.
“We’re doing everything we can as an organization to give Andrew a chance – and Andrew’s doing everything he can to have a chance – to have a long-term career. And that’s what he plans on doing and that’s what we plan on him doing.’’
“I wish I was better and 100 percent this season, but that’s not the case,’’ Luck said via Colts.com. “I know I’ll be better from this.
“I know I’ll be a better quarterback, teammate, person and player from this, and I’m excited for the future.’’
Luck’s value to the Colts can’t be overstated. The first overall pick in the 2012 draft is one of the NFL’s most indispensible players to a franchise, challenging Aaron Rodgers’ influence in Green Bay and Tom Brady in New England.
The Colts are 43-27 with Luck under center, 8-10 when he’s been out.
Luck started the first 51 games of his career, but injuries – most notably the shoulder, a lacerated kidney, a concussion – forced him to miss 18 of the next 37. With this season a complete washout, he’ll miss 26 of the Colts’ last 45 games.
Ballard went on the defensive to refute speculation the organization has been misleading about Luck’s rehab process.
“The one thing I want y’all to understand is that there’s never been once, a time when I’ve tried to mislead, this organization have we tried to mislead,’’ he said. “This whole thing has been very fluid.
Ballard and coach Chuck Pagano routinely declined to offer timeframes for Luck’s return.
However, owner Jim Irsay in March said he expected Luck to be ready for training camp.
“It’s hard to pin that down for sure,’’ he said at the time. “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.’’
Irsay also was optimistic after the Colts closed the preseason against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“He will take the field when he is ready, when he is 100 percent ready to go. OK?’’ he said. “This is for the next 12, 14 years.
“Will he play against the Rams? Man, I hope so. I hope so.’’
Luck was upbeat Oct. 12, the last time he met with the media, insisting he could see the “finish line’’ in his rehab process.
The true finish line for 2017 was reached Thursday.
It was preceded by Luck returning to practice for the first time Oct. 4. It included throwing on a limited basis during four practices early last month, but that was deterred when he experienced soreness and swelling in his right shoulder. He was given a cortisone shot in the shoulder the week of Oct. 16 with the hope that would calm things down, but that wasn’t the case.
Ballard said shoulder specialists explained a possible issue with the shoulder soreness is getting everything “to work together properly. So continue to rehab, continue to strengthen and continue flexibility.
“We’re going to shut his throwing down and we’re going to continue to rehab. We’re going to continue hard rehab.’’
Once again, Ballard refused to provide a timeframe for when Luck might resume throwing, or whether he’ll be ready for the team’s offseason conditioning program next April.
“Too early,’’ he said. “Like we’ve done the whole time, we have not put a timeframe on it and we won’t put a timeline on it.’’
However, one fact is irrefutable. If Luck is ready for the 2018 regular-season opener, he’ll have gone 19 months between starts.
Ballard was asked if the uncertainty regarding Luck’s short-term future might impact the Colts’ offseason personnel moves?
“We’ll take the approach that he’s going to be there,’’ he said. “I’m not getting career-ending injury from anybody. What I’m getting from the doctors is have patience with the process.’’
Ballard added Luck has been understandably frustrated by the process.
“He is a competitive guy,’’ he said. “Not only is he a competitive guy, but he cares about his teammates. He cares about this organization. He knows the impact he has on Sunday. He’s a difference-maker. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in this league. He’s frustrated.
“But saying that, I think he has great resolve and I think all of this, you look through the dark times, there’s got to be some light. And I think a year of his body healing, getting the shoulder right, I think we will see a better Andrew down the line.’’