Chris Ballard has no doubt Andrew Luck is going to be ready, will be on hand for April 2 work

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Andrew Luck’s presence despite his continued absence managed to dominate the discussion as the Indianapolis Colts’ brain trust took a break from the NFL Scouting Combine.

The team’s $140 million quarterback remains on the West Coast, whipping his right shoulder into shape for the coming offseason and season. Luck’s workout regimen still doesn’t include throwing a football – he’s at the weighted-ball stage – as strengthening the right shoulder and honing the throwing motion are paramount.

That’s not the news that emerged.

The news involved Luck’s intention to return to town for the April 2 start of the Colts’ offseason workout program. That hadn’t been addressed prior to Wednesday. It’s imperative Luck is on hand considering the team has a new coach (Frank Reich), new offensive coordinator (Nick Sirianni), new assistant quarterbacks coach (Marcus Brady) and, oh yes, new offense.

“It’s huge,’’ Reich said.

Also, general manager Chris Ballard broke from form. After being extremely non-committal regarding the possibility of Luck’s return at some point during 2017 – that clearly never happened – he was exponentially more assertive.

“Do I have any doubt that he’s going to be ready? No, I don’t,’’ Ballard said.

It remains to be seen whether Luck’s on-going rehab will have progressed to the point he’s wingin’ the football around the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance headquarters when workouts commence in April. The last time he threw with the team was during four controlled practice sessions in mid-October, and that resulted in soreness and swelling in the right shoulder.

“We need to see Andrew just get back into football and being with his teammates again,’’ Ballard said. “I think Andrew’s going to tell you the same thing. That’s important. The one thing we will not do with Andrew is we will not skip a step. Every step that he’s taking right now has a purpose behind it and we feel good about where he’s at right now.

“Even though he hasn’t picked up a football right now, he’s doing some things that’s showing us that he is where he is. He’s going in the right direction.’’

Ballard is optimistic Luck will resume throwing “during April and May, to where we’re all seeing the progress we want to see.

“Talking to him and talking to the doctors, we’ve all ruled out surgery. Everybody’s ruled out surgery. I know there are still reports out there . . . we’ve ruled that out.’’

Luck first injured his right shoulder at Tennessee during week 3 of the 2015 season, and dealt with the discomfort and limitations the remainder of that season and throughout 2016.

“You’ve got to remember how he played for two years banged up, then had this whole year off,’’ Ballard said. “So taking a year where you’re not every day working the motion, it takes time to get back.

“When is that point? I wish I could put a timeline (on it). I wish I could give you a day, ‘All right, here’s the drop-down day.’ Just can’t do it. I know this: I believe in the kid, I believe in where he’s at mentally and he’s going to do some really good things going forward and he’s in a good place.’’

The best place will be the Colts’ West 56th complex in early April.

Aside from being one of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks, Luck is the heart and soul of the Colts. That player needs to be in his environment, surrounded by his teammates.

“He’s more than just our quarterback,’’ Reich said. “He’s big-time leader of our team. To be a part of that and be a part of the culture that Chris and I have sat down (and talked about) and said, ‘What are we building here?’

“Obviously Andrew is a critical piece to that and obviously his leadership is important at every level.’’

Added Ballard: “Is it going to help having him back in the building? Absolutely it is. But I don’t think it’s just going to help (his teammates). I think it’s going to help Andrew. I think it’s going to be good for Andrew to be back around his teammates.

“I think that’s what he misses, being around the locker room, being around his guys. It’s one of the special things about this kid. He likes to be considered one of the teammates.

“The only other player I’ve been around like that is (Brian) Urlacher. Superstar Brian, he was just one of the guys. He didn’t ever want to be treated different. He knew his status, but he never acted in that way. In terms of (Luck) being back, I do think it’ll be good for the organization, good for the locker room and good for Andrew.’’

This and that

  •  After kicking off their offseason workouts April 2, the Colts will hold a voluntary minicamp three weeks later. That’s in addition to the mandatory minicamp in mid-June that concludes their offseason work and a bonus from having a first-time head coach.
  • Marcus Brady has been hired as assistant quarterbacks coach. The main QB coach? That would be Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.

“We will kind of lead the quarterback room,’’ Reich said, “and then Marcus will help out. I’m very excited to have Marcus, don’t get me wrong . . . this guy brings a lot to the table. But this first year, I just think, installing the system, it makes a lot of sense that Nick and I kind of lead that room and then go from there.’’

  •  Ballard will keep his options open regarding the third over pick in the draft. That might be used on North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Or the Colts might trade back to accumulate additional picks.

“It’s too early to say,’’ Ballard said when asked about options at No. 3. “You don’t know what’s going to happen at 1 or 2. And then you have to known, how does everyone else view the quarterbacks that are in the draft.

“Do we think we are in a pretty good spot? Yes.’’

  •  The Colts have re-signed placekicker Adam Vinatieri but won’t re-sign running back Frank Gore. Other players who will hit the open market March 14 include cornerback Rashaan Melvin, wide receiver Donte Moncrief and guard Jack Mewhort.

“You’d like to re-sign every guy you have, but we know that’s not realistic,’’ Ballard said. “What we’ll do is wait and we’ll have some discussions.’’

Melvin might be the most important player to retain, but Ballard said the team must “let the market play out’’ to determine whether he will be affordable.

“You’ve got to determine ‘Is he within our price range of where we see his value?’’’ he said.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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