If needed, Jacoby Brissett offers Colts proven backup for Andrew Luck

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Normalcy is expected to return to the Indianapolis Colts in the form of Andrew Luck. Sooner, not later.

Listen to Luck: “I want to go into training camp without a governor on in my mind on anything and feeling really, really good.’’

And listen to general manager Chris Ballard, who was steadfastly noncommittal as Luck’s first comeback from surgery on his right shoulder unfolded only to fizzle in October: “If everything goes as planned, we’ll be ready to roll come training camp. I think he’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder to prove some people and naysayers wrong. That’s a beautiful thing with a quarterback that I think is top-5 in this league.’’

However, until Luck’s rehab incorporates throwing a regulation football – that wasn’t the case late last week – any optimism of him regaining control of the Colts offense must be tempered.

We’ve been here before. Remember?

Until Luck’s right shoulder is put the test and withstands the rigors of strenuous and extended throwing, we suggest everyone keep two words in mind.

Jacoby. Brissett.

“(He has) great character, great leadership, mentally is on top of it, really a good passer and really a good decision maker,’’ Frank Reich said. “Jacoby played a lot of good football last year, so I’m really glad he is here.’’

Brissett’s rise from Who’s he? to He’s the guy! was meteoric.

  • Sept. 1: he was third in the New England Patriots’ quarterback pecking order behind Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • Sept. 2: he was in Indy. When the realization hit the organization Luck’s rehab hadn’t progressed as expected and he would miss at least the first portion of the regular season, Ballard orchestrated a trade with the Patriots. He shed 2015 first-round pick wideout Phillip Dorsett and received a viable stand-in for Luck.
  • Sept. 17: Brissett was starting against the Arizona Cardinals.

The four-month experience of arriving in town, figuring out how to reach the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center, learning his teammates, burying himself in the playbook and trying to keep his head above water was invaluable.

“To go out there and play in 16 games,’’ Brissett said. “The learning curves of the whole season and team-to-team.’’

It was dealing with the good: leading the Colts to four wins while passing for 3,098 yards and 13 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. Remember, this was a QB asked to play at a high level without benefit of an offseason or a training camp.

It was dealing with the bad: enduring 11 losses and absorbing a league-high 52 sacks along the way. He passed for 200 yards or fewer in seven of his 15 starts. His 79.4 rating on third down ranked 20th in the league while his 63.3 fourth-quarter rating ranked 36th among qualifying starters.

Last season represented a wide-ranging learning experience.

“Exactly,’’ Brissett said.

While Luck has methodically attacked his rehab, Brissett has worked with the No. 1 offense during the Colts’ offseason workouts. He’s honed his timing with T.Y Hilton, Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant, Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron and others, and gotten familiar with his running backs and offensive linemen.

“It’s great because I get to go out there and practice with the guys and do the stuff I’m going to do,’’ he said. “Last year, I got traded at the beginning of the year, so it was kind of hard. But no excuses.

“Now you get to practice, to get the reps and get the timing down and get an understanding for each other. I think these days are very valuable right now.’’

While Brissett no longer needs to consult his GPS to navigate a route to the team’s West 56th Street complex – “I take the same route,’’ he said with a smile – he still finds himself adjusting. Again.

With the arrival of Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni, he’s dealing with his third offensive system in less than a year.

“Each year is different, you know?’’ he said. “It’s a new system this year, so (I’m) just up for the challenge. That’s what makes this sport so fun. You get to go out there and learn new things, learn new people and just get better.’’

Ideally, Luck completes his rehab, is ready for unrestricted throwing in training camp and is under center Sept. 9 when the Cincinnati Bengals visit Lucas Oil Stadium.

If another snag occurs, it’s Jacoby Brissett’s offense.

The Colts’ trust in Brissett was evident in October as the NFL’s trade deadline approached. A few teams called Ballard to gauge the availability of his recently-acquired backup-turned-starter.

Ballard listened, then declined.

“I think you all know my feelings for Jacoby Brissett,’’ he said. “I love him. I love Jacoby Brissett. I love everything he stands for. He’s tough. He’s committed. He’s a great teammate.

“I love Jacoby. Jacoby Brissett is going to play in this league a long time. If I learned anything last year, (it) was the value of having a backup quarterback that can get it done and I think Jacoby Brissett can do that.’’

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