Andrew Luck will use ‘down time’ to complete rehab, be ready for camp

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Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – They huddled around Frank Reich on the practice field one last time Thursday afternoon, then headed into the last “down time’’ before things get serious in late July with the start of training camp.

It’s a six-week lull for the Indianapolis Colts to take a step back, take a breath and prepare for what they hope is a seven-month journey to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

Except for Andrew Luck. The franchise’s focal point undoubtedly is bracing for weeks of amped-up work in his second attempt at returning to the playing field following January 2017 surgery on his right shoulder.

Players report to Grand Park in Westfield July 25 and practice the following afternoon. Luck vows to be ready to take his normal reps with the starting unit, but that only will be possible if he’s able to progress through a detailed, graduated workout/throwing regimen between now and then.

Among the next steps of Luck’s progression is gathering some of his receivers and throwing. That’s occasionally been the case during previous offseasons, but arguably more important as Luck heads into his seventh NFL season.

He last played a game Jan. 1, 2017.

“I think that’s going to be an important phase of it,’’ Reich said. “(With) any quarterback, there will be a progression and I think that that progression is charted out. You go from where you’re throwing pretty stationary, not a whole lot of movement, then some of your movement throws, then you’re spotting receivers up and you’re throwing to spots and then the next step after that is throwing competitive throws to receivers who are running full speed.

“We certainly would need to work to get that in before the return.’’

NFL restricts contact between coaches and players during the next six weeks, but Reich expects to “check in’’ with Luck from time to time to see how he’s doing. Luck’s workout schedule has long since been determined after huddling with Reich, general manager Chris Ballard and the rehab/training staff.

“The course is charted and the plan is set,’’ Reich said. “I know him. I know he’s going to stick to the plan and get it done.’’

“My goal is to be ready for training camp,’’ Luck said.

It’s uncertain if Luck’s throwing will include tosses to Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton.

“He’s got stuff to do,’’ Hilton replied when asked if he planned on working with Luck in the coming weeks.

Is Hilton worried about regaining his synergy with Luck?

“Me and him’s good,’’ he said with a laugh.

The Colts aren’t concerned that Luck might not arrange a throwing session – or sessions – with some of his receivers. It’s worth noting the only players who have caught a pass from Luck in a game setting are Hilton, Chester Rogers, Jack Doyle, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson and Erik Swoope.

Everyone could use the work to tighten up timing.

“What I’ve found out with quarterbacks like (Luck) and Jacoby (Brissett) and other quarterbacks that I’ve been around (is) they don’t need that nudge,’’ coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “They’re going to do it on their own.’’

Reich agreed.

“That’s in Andrew’s court, and that’s really pretty par for the course around the league with quarterbacks. They call their guys up,’’ he said. “That’s what you love (as) the coach, when you have that kind of leadership.

“This isn’t college. We don’t have to organize that for them. We’ve got leaders on the team who know what it takes. He knows what he has to do to get ready. Every place I’ve been, guys like that get guys together for a couple of days here, a couple of days there, a week here and get done what needs to get done.’’

During the mandatory minicamp that concluded Thursday, Luck threw for the first time in front of the media during the early portion of Tuesday’s practice. It was light throwing with a high school-sized football that consisted of approximately 20 passes.

Wednesday, Luck endured a slightly-heavier workout with crisper passes. At one point, he ditched his striped Wilson Tds 1205 football (the high school version) for an NFL football and threw to receivers.

Luck’s rehab has included throwing the smaller football for several weeks, and occasionally has ratcheted up the velocity of his throws. He has thrown on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday, taken Thursday off, then thrown again on Fridays.

That’s to mimic a normal week during the regular season: three days of throwing, a day off, then game day.

“Frank and I have had some really, really good conversations and will continue to have great conversations,’’ Luck said. “Big picture, my goal was to be able to throw as much as I need to.’’

Preseason workload?

As we’ve mentioned, Luck last stepped on the playing field in week 17 of 2017 season. That in mind, it’s worth wondering how much he might play during the preseason to regain his form. The Colts open the preseason Aug. 9 at Seattle.

The short answer: not as much as you might think.

“Yeah, I think he is going to play some preseason. I don’t know how much at this point,’’ Reich said.

Generally speaking, he doesn’t “like the starting quarterback to play too many snaps of preseason ball. I mean if you just look at the places I’ve been and had any say in it, the starting quarterback doesn’t play a whole lot in preseason.’’

Traditionally, the Colts have had their starting QB play a series in the preseason opener, a quarter in the second game, at least a half in the third game and none in the finale.

“You need to play enough to get into a rhythm,’’ Reich said, “but I feel like we can get into a pretty good rhythm out on the practice field.

“The fact he didn’t play last year and then maybe you want him to get a few snaps out there, but he has played a lot of ball so it’s all about getting him ready to play against the Bengals.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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