INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The parade of dignitaries was long, and warmly received by a small portion of the Indianapolis Colts’ fan base.
It was a second Season Ticket Member Town Hall Meeting Tuesday evening at Scottish Rite Cathedral, one that featured general manager Chris Ballard, newly-acquired head coach Frank Reich and an assortment of assistant coaches and players.
But it was an absentee Colt who demanded everyone’s attention.
That would be Andrew Luck.
In an eight-minute pre-recorded interview with emcee Peter King of MMQB, the franchise’s cornerstone player offered a long-distance update on his on-going rehabilitation from surgery on his right shoulder. The surgery/rehab forced Luck to miss the entire 2017 season and has called into question his availability for the upcoming season.
Without question the most telling comment came when Luck was asked if a second surgery remained a possibility. That clearly would threaten his availability for 2018.
“Oh, that is not an option for me right now,’’ Luck said. “I feel very, very good about where I am. So that ship has sailed, in my mind, which is also a bit of a relief, I’m not going to lie.’’
Luck has been on the West Coast for the past month working with throwing specialists Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.
“I feel awesome, I really do,’’ he said. “I’m in a great place. It’s been a long journey. It’ll still be a long journey till hopefully we get done what we need to get done in Indianapolis.
“The rehab has been hard at times. The one thing I know in my heart is I’m getting better. I feel great. I’m extremely optimistic. It’s been fun to see myself improve. I couldn’t be more excited for this offseason and our new coach, everything that’s happened and the direction the team’s going.’’
Luck revealed he’s “in the middle of a little bit of throwing,’’ but primarily is focused on strengthening and preparing his right shoulder “to be able to handle the throw load that is part of being an NFL quarterback.
“The focus right now is still strengthening all those muscles and making sure my shoulder can handle it.’’
It’s been a methodical process that began when Luck spent approximately six weeks in the Netherlands working with a personal trainer. That extended business trip overseas was a byproduct of him developing soreness and swelling in the shoulder when he resumed throwing in mid-October. Four controlled throwing sessions were curtailed and cortisone was injected in the shoulder to remedy the situation.
When that didn’t happen, the team placed him on the injured reserve list Nov. 2.
While the Colts have been laying the groundwork for the upcoming season, their $140 million quarterback has been meticulously attacking his rehab.
“The one thing that I’ve learned through these couple of years of dealing with it is that I can’t skip steps,’’ Luck said. “You have to do everything as well as possible. And as much as I want to catch myself – as much as I want to grab a ball and throw it a million times – I know I have to build up to be able to handle that.
“Right now I’m in that building phase still. But it’s exciting. I know in my heart of hearts I’m going to be a better thrower, a better quarterback, a better teammate, a better Colt because of what I’m going through.’’
The Colts report for their offseason conditioning program April 2, and ideally their starting QB will be on hand. There’s a new head coach, new offensive coordinator (Nick Sirianni) and new offense.
“I’m hopeful maybe that can happen,’’ Reich said of Luck’s participation. “I’m hopeful. But I’m not demanding an answer on that at this point, ‘Hey, someone tell me: Is he ready?’ Here’s the reality: I hope he’s there, but we’ll go on if he’s not. He understands that. We all understand that.
“I’m optimistic. I’m hopeful. But honestly, that’s not the forefront question on my mind every day coming to work.’’
Luck made it clear the last 13 months have tested him mentally and offered perspective. The last time he stepped on the field was Jan. 1, 2017 when he led a last-second 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He underwent surgery three weeks later to repair a torn labrum.
“It was very difficult to not play last year and to have something that you love to do taken away from you,’’ he said. “It makes you sort of turn the proverbial mirror on yourself and look at, ‘Who am I? What am I? What do I truly love to do?’
“One of the many great things, blessings, of what I’ve gone through . . . is I truly love football. I love T.Y. Hilton, Anthony Castonzo, Jack Doyle, Adam Vinatieri. I love those guys. When that’s taken away from you . . . I probably didn’t appreciate it, how much joy I got out of that from my first five years in the league.
“To have that taken away from you gives you a perspective and I think I’ll be a better quarterback and a teammate because of that perspective.’’