LONDON, England – Jim Irsay offered long-distance reassurance to the Indianapolis Colts’ fan base.
Andrew Luck, the organizational linchpin, is fine. Surgery isn’t in the picture to address a lingering right shoulder issue that has limited Luck’s availability for practice over the first month of the season.
“As the owner who just committed that type of contract, I’m telling you that shoulder is not something to be overly-concerned about,’’ Irsay said Saturday after Luck and other members of the team participated in a Fan Fest event leading up to Sunday’s meeting with Jacksonville in Wembley Stadium. “There’s nothing surgically (required), trust me.
“There isn’t any sort of chronic shoulder injury. I promise you, there’s no surgeries planned. He is fine and the shoulder will be something that disappears into the woodwork when he gets his next MVP or when we win a Super Bowl.’’
Concern over Luck’s health is understandable.
First, he missed nine starts last season with injuries to his right shoulder, ribs and kidney. Secondly, Luck’s name has been regularly listed thus far on the NFL’s participation/injury report. Of the 12 practices, he’s missed one day, been limited six times and been a full participant on five occasions.
And the contract Irsay mentioned? In June, Luck signed an extension that ties him to the Colts through the 2021 season and could pay him as much as $140 million. It’s the richest contract in NFL history.
“He is fine,’’ Irsay reiterated. “He will play until whatever he wants to, 38, 39 years old. He’s going to be with us for a long, long time and I do not see him missing any games this year.’’
The right shoulder, he added, “is not a serious issue. It’s just something along the way that we’re monitoring and having to make sure we practice him and do the right sort of things until it starts feeling completely 100 percent every day.
“But it’s not something that concerns us at all. He can throw it 70 yards. He’s ready to play and I see him having a great year.’’
The larger issue, according to Irsay, is his franchise quarterback altering his game. Luck must cut down on his turnovers and be better at protecting himself on the playing field.
“He has to change the way he plays,’’ Irsay said. “He is not a 22-year-old kid at Stanford who could play tight end or quarterback. He has to understand that, and he learned from the Denver game what it means to stay on the field.’’
Luck suffered a season-ending lacerated kidney Nov. 8 against the Broncos when a pair of Denver defenders sandwiched him on a scramble.
In three games this season behind a ever-changing offensive line, Luck has been sacked nine times and hit on another 25 occasions.
As for the turnovers, it’s worth noting Luck has suffered 88 – 69 interceptions, 19 lost fumbles – in 64 career games, including the postseason. His four turnovers this year include an interception against the Chargers and a lost fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
“He has to protect the football and protect himself,’’ Irsay said. “Look, (he) throws the interception. It’s tough. He’s mad. But no Ray Lewis tackles. Do what Peyton (Manning) did. Do a little foxtrot and you don’t embarrass yourself . . . stay out of the fray.
“You don’t see Aaron Rodgers, you didn’t see Peyton Manning get involved in those type of frays. That’s when tough things happen.
“Andrew is at the point of his career where he’s honing his game, where he’s dealing with exactly ‘How do I deal with keeping myself as healthy as I can and how do I deal with limiting turnovers?’’’
Manning, Irsay added, “learned eventually how important it was to not turn it over and be able to stay on the field and stay healthy.’’
Speaking of Manning, Irsay noted the Colts’ iconic QB also had to deal with injuries during his 14-year career. And he wasn’t referring to the four neck procedures that forced Manning to miss the 2011 season and led to his release.
“We had stuff with Peyton you guys will never know about that we went through with him,’’ Irsay said. “Didn’t have to officially list him on the injury report, but Peyton did a lot of work quietly behind the scenes to deal with certain situations, health situations that might concern you if you knew about them.’’