With Kevin Durant in mind, Colts take cautious approach with Andrew Luck’s calf injury

Kevin Durant (left, Getty Images) and Andrew Luck at camp Thursday (right)

WESTFIELD, Ind. – If everyone associated with the Indianapolis Colts is being cautious – really, really cautious – with Andrew Luck’s strained left calf, there’s pretty darned good reason.

His name is Kevin Durant.

Who hasn’t watched the brief, cringe-worthy video clip of the Golden State Warriors’ phenom dribbling on the perimeter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Toronto, cutting to his left, pulling up, going down and clutching his lower right leg?

Durant was making his first appearance of the postseason since he reportedly strained his right calf a month earlier against Houston. Everyone was certain he was ready to return.

Maybe they were wrong and an accelerated rehab contributed to a torn Achilles that might force Durant to miss all of next season.

Luck suffered a strained left calf either in late April or early May that forced him to miss the entirety of the Colts’ on-field offseason work. He was expected to be ready for the start of training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus, and was on the field Thursday afternoon.

But in a limited basis. Luck went through individual drills, including doing some throwing, but exchanged his helmet for a baseball cap when the Colts dove into team drills.

“It’s all about progress,” Luck said. “I wasn’t in a position to go in and test (the calf) or push it. I think I did an appropriate amount of work today.

“Got better and we’ll keep adding and adding and adding.”

The plan – always subject to change – is for Luck to participate in the 7-on-7 sessions Friday and, at some point, graduate to full team work. That might be this weekend, or sometime next week.

“The next step is 7-on-7 and we’ll do that for one, two, three, four days, however many it takes,” Frank Reich said. “We’ve got plenty of time.”

Here’s where we remind you the Colts’ season opener is more than six weeks away: Sept. 8 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

And here’s where we elaborate on how Durant’s situation impacted Luck’s situation. In short, Reich and others within the organization watched the video of Durant’s traumatic injury, and proceeded accordingly in terms of structuring Luck’s rehab regimen.

“We didn’t really talk about it,” Reich said, “but I think we all knew it.”

He paused and smiled.

“I was certainly thinking about it,” he said. “I didn’t have that conversation with Chris (Ballard) or any of our trainers, but that’s this business.

“When something like that happens, you think, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s why you do what we’re doing.’ It’s kind of like an unspoken truth. That’s why ‘Let’s be cautious about this.”’

Luck declined to elaborate on the injury, but one thing seems clear: this wasn’t a minor calf strain. Not only did it keep him off the field during the offseason, the continued rehab impacted the level of his work over the last five or six weeks.

After the Colts concluded minicamp in mid-June, Luck would spend a good portion of the time leading up to training camp on the West Coast.

“A lot of rehab work,” Luck said, adding he “got a chance to see my sisters a bunch and sister-in-law and be with family. But a lot of work and some throwing.”

The calf injury was “limiting, just as it was limiting for me today,” he said. “I didn’t get a chance to get together with some of the guys, which I normally do.

“As I learned, you can’t dodo bird things. You can’t put your head in the sand and say nothing’s wrong.”

Last offseason, Luck was immersed in what amounted to a second rehab from January 2017 surgery on his right shoulder. It was slow, tedious. It was necessary. He missed all of the Colts’ offseason work and didn’t start throwing a regulation football until mid-June.

He was eased into training camp.

“We have referred to that a couple of times, just talking with Andrew,” Reich said. “Just the discipline of sticking to the plan, of not pushing and rushing things, knowing we have time.”

Luck reiterated the importance of not skipping steps in this rehab, similarly to his shoulder rehab.

“It just comes back to bite you in the end,” he said. “You go to bed saying, ‘Oh, I wish I hadn’t pulled my calf. I wish I didn’t feel like this.’ It is what it is and it’s all about getting better and doing the best you can that day, and I think that’s what this team is about.”

He quickly dismissed the progress of the offense will be slowed by his absence. There won’t be any “catching up to do.”

“Caught up isn’t the right word,” he said. “We’re building. Everybody’s building. My pace might be a little different than another player’s on this team, but it’s not a catch-up because I’m behind.

“It’s a build every day, a building mentality.”

There’s no question Luck must be patient. He’s ultra-competitive and prefers playing and practicing to watching.

To Luck’s benefit, he’s been through this before. He recalled his experience heading into the first practice last summer after an offseason of extensive rehab on his right shoulder.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. I remember walking through that sort of tunnel of trees,” he said. “Today I was sitting there thinking about it and how scared I was to go practice and how nervous (I was). I had no idea what in the heck was going to happen on this practice field.

“I remember it being a very powerful feeling, then feeling so happy and almost relieved like, ‘I survived! I survived practice and my arm’s still attached to my shoulder.’ That’s certainly a much different feeling this year, but also talking about patience and trusting the process.

“It was almost forced upon me last year and I learned so much from it.”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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