INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The wait is nearly over. Months of speculation – how much progress did general manager Chris Ballard actually make in his offseason upgrade of the Indianapolis Colts’ roster? – will give way to some type of reality.
Players report July 25 for the start of training camp at Grand Park in Westfield, and then we’ll get some answers.
“Let’s just wait until training camp, get everybody out there, be at full strength,’’ coach Frank Reich said.
Between now and then, we’ll take a look at a positional look at the Colts.
Starter: Andrew Luck.
Backup: Jacoby Brissett.
Others: Phillip Walker, Brad Kaaya.
Ready to return?:
We’ve been here before, like 12 months ago. Every legitimate concern heading into training camp – there are plenty – pales in comparison to whether Luck’s methodical, graduated rehab since the end of the minicamp in mid-June has progressed as planned.
Luck threw sparingly in front of the media during minicamp, but endured a heavier workload away from prying eyes. It’s believed he and some of his receivers got together for some serious throwing sessions. Chester Rogers tweeted July 8 he was headed to Stanford, where Luck frequently spends time during the offseason.
That would have been the final phase of Luck’s throwing regimen, the last necessary step before being in position to handle a normal training-camp workload.
“My goal is to be ready for training camp,’’ he said in mid-June. “There’s going to be a plan.’’
Generally, the plan Luck and Reich have devised involves mirroring a regular-season week: Luck throwing three straight days, taking a day off, then resuming his throwing.
“There’s a plan and I feel very good about that plan,’’ Luck said.
Even so, a degree of anxiety undoubtedly will hover over the Grand Park practice fields until Luck proves his right shoulder is able to endure constant, practice-tempo throwing.
Remember, prior to his limited throwing in front of the media in mid-June, Luck last threw with his teammates in mid-October. And then his shoulder responded with soreness and swelling that a cortisone shot and inactivity didn’t adequately address. He was placed on the injured reserve list Nov. 2.
Luck last played in a game Jan. 1, 2017. He must reacquaint himself with the speed and strain of full-go practices and the advanced level of preseason games before he’s truly ready for the Sept. 9 opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
With Luck, the Colts could bounce back from last year’s 4-12 record and creep closer to .500. Without him, another long season probably awaits.
Brissett made the best of a bad situation a year ago. He was thrust into a starter’s role in week 2 against Arizona shortly after Ballard acquired him in the trade with the Patriots. Despite learning on the run and absorbing a league-high 52 sacks, Brissett passed for 3,098 yards with 13 TDs and just 7 interceptions. Not surprisingly, his decision-making and play-making improved as the season unfolded.
Now, Brissett has a full offseason with his teammates and should benefit from running the No. 1 offense while Luck concentrated on his rehab.
“Each year is different, you know?’’ Brissett 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.’’
Brissett is dealing with a third offense in less than a year.
A major factor in the Colts’ 4-12 record a year ago was their inability to finish what they started. They were 2-7 in games when they held a halftime lead.
That’s where Luck’s return should be felt the most. In his 76 career starts, including the playoffs, he has directed the Colts to a halftime lead 38 times.
They’re 34-4 in those games.