INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 18, 2016) – So it begins.
Nearly four months after the end of an unsatisfactory 2015, the Indianapolis Colts were back at work Monday. The beginning of their offseason program is the first step in making amends for an 8-8 record and watching the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“Not good enough by any stretch of the imagination,’’ veteran linebacker Robert Mathis said as he embarked on his 14th season. “We want to win the Super Bowl. We have to come in and do what we’re capable of, and that’s finish the job.
“It’s an expectation, and we have to work toward it.’’
Issues have been resolved since the ’15 season ended with a 30-24 win over the Tennessee Titans. Most notably, embattled coach Chuck Pagano was given a four-year extension and three years were added to general manager Ryan Grigson’s existing contract.
One tight end – Dwayne Allen – was re-signed, while another – Coby Fleener – rode free agency to New Orleans.
Jerrell Freeman, a four-year tackle machine, relocated to Chicago.
All of the offseason maneuverings, though, took a backseat on the first day of player access.
The media encircled Andrew Luck’s cubicle in the locker room.
The franchise’s most influential player is coming off an injury-plagued ’15. He missed two early games with injuries to his right shoulder and ribs, then missed the final seven after suffering a lacerated kidney in the Nov. 8 win over the Denver Broncos.
How’s he feeling?
“Yeah, I feel very good,’’ Luck said. “I feel like rolling around, running around and having fun.
“I participated in everything and enjoyed it.’’
That in itself offers zero evidence as to whether Luck has fully regained his health. The first two weeks of offseason work are restricted to strength and conditioning.
Consider the occasional back-and-forth when Luck was asked about his health.
Are you as healthy as you can be?
“I still have some work to do, certainly. You’re always working to get better, you’re always working to feel better, you’re always working to be in better shape, to be more physically fit, so that’s still a process. And it’s been a process we laid down basically that first week after the season ended with our trainers, (physical therapists), the coaches and myself and said, ‘Alright, here’s the plan.’’’
Will you be limited when you start throwing?
“I don’t have to answer that question yet because we’re not on the field. I wish I had a crystal ball, I’d have all the answers for you.’’
Has the kidney fully healed?
“Yes, it’s fine.’’
And the right shoulder?
“It is feeling very good, yes.’’
The ambiguity of a few of Luck’s comments, particularly regarding whether he’ll be limited when offseason work accelerates to on-field activities and throwing the football, were at the very least interesting.
He last attempted a pass in a game just over five months ago, and the injury to his right shoulder occurred in early September. Looming is the start of training camp in late July, the Aug. 7 preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, and the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Detroit in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The availability of Luck and his ability to put a forgettable ’15 behind him are paramount to the Colts regaining their playoff form. To do so, he’ll have to adjust to coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s new offense; the guiding hand of Brian Schottenheimer, who replaced Clyde Christensen as Luck’s position coach; and a quarterback room that now has Scott Tolzien, not Matt Hasselbeck, as Luck’s backup.
On day 1, optimism was high.
“What an exciting day,’’ Luck said. “Hope springs eternal.
“It’s great to be back, great to be back with some new faces, great to be back with some old faces. Obviously a lot of change, which I think can be a good thing – needs to be a good thing for the Colts.
“Very, very exciting. It’s good to have just about the whole team here and get some good work in.’’
One bit on unfinished business involves an expected extension for Luck. He’s in the fifth year of his rookie contract, and is scheduled to earn $16.155 million.
Owner Jim Irsay mentioned July 4 as a soft deadline to finalize an extension for Luck, and it’s expected to be the most lucrative contract in NFL history. It might approach $25 million per season.
“Love to be here and get it done and move forward,’’ Luck said. “That being said, I really don’t spend too much time thinking about it.
“I have a great agent (Will Wilson), who’s also my uncle, so I probably talk to him too much. But I trust him to do a great job and we’ll see what happens.’