INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Whatever everyone was expecting from Andrew Luck on his return to the playing field for the first time in 585 days undoubtedly was surpassed Thursday evening at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
Restricted to methodical, arduous rehabilitation since January 2017 surgery on his right shoulder, Luck shook off the nerves that followed him into the huddle and looked poised and precise while directing two series.
He did what he’s done since he was a youngster, until, that is, being idled last season by that balky right shoulder. He played quarterback.
“I tried to make it as normal as possible,’’ Luck said after leading a pair of field goal-producing drives in the Indianapolis Colts’ 19-17 win in their preseason opener against the Seahawks.
He had trouble sleeping, so he got out of bed early, went for a walk, enjoyed an expresso, killed some more time, then went to team meetings and got in a brief workout.
As the game approached – his first real football since Jan. 1, 2017 – Luck battled butterflies.
“For a moment there I was like ‘OK, how do I approach it?’’’ he said in his post-game press conference. “ . . . it was leading up to the game, just trying to control my emotions.
“And then I just sort of said, ‘Screw it. Whatever I want to think and whatever I want to feel, I’m going to feel it and let that happen.’’’
Luck’s bottom line: 19 snaps, 124 yards by the offense and two Adam Vinatieri field goals. He was calm in the pocket, decisive with his reads and crisp with his throws while completing 6-of-9 passes for 64 yards. He showed good touch, and amped up the velocity when necessary.
Finally, he was back.
“It was a little like the pressure was off of me in a sense,’’ he said. “I really had fun. I really enjoyed it. Like I told you guys earlier, I didn’t quite know if I’d have this much fun again practicing to play. I didn’t know if I’d have this much fun playing football.
“It’s a preseason game. I’m not going to overblow anything or blow anything out of proportion, but it’s still a game and it’s still a chance to go up against another colored jersey. It was a fun step along the way.’’
Coach Frank Reich agreed. During a halftime interview on WXIN, he noted Luck had “good rhythm (and) was in complete control. I thought he did a nice job.’’
And yes, Luck absorbed a couple of hits. Another box was checked, twice in fact.
The first was delivered by linebacker Bobby Wagner when Luck tucked the football and ran for 1 yard on a third-and-3. Suffice it to say it was contact that left an impression. He high-fived tight end Jack Doyle after he got to his feet.
“I think there was a sense of ‘OK, get hit and get up and make sure you’re not broken,’’’ Luck said. “It was probably the most excited I have been and will ever be for getting hit.
“Got that out of the way so we’re good.’’
The other hit was a legitimate sack as left tackle Joe Haeg, subbing for injured Anthony Castonzo, was beaten by rookie defensive end Rashseem Green for the only sack of Luck.
Luck attributed Green’s sack to “a communication error . . . we’ll clean that up.’’
Along with Luck reintroducing himself to the NFL – his first pass was a 17-yard completion to running back Marlon Mack – the game offered several situational plays.
On the opening drive, Luck converted a third-and-6 with an 8-yard completion to T.Y. Hilton, then picked up a fourth-and-1 with a 14-yard swing pass to the right to Robert Turbin.
Each of Luck’s drives ended in a similar manner: Vinatieri field goals. He knocked down a 33-yarder to give the Colts an early 3-0 lead, then drove a low liner through the uprights from 51 yards to narrow Seattle’s lead to 7-6.
“The first play’s always a little nerve-racking in any game, but especially this one,’’ Luck said. “And I’m glad it was positive. I’m glad it was a completion.
“After that, it sort of slowed down: the rhythm, the flow of the huddle, calling a play, knowing where the play clocks are, how you get to the line of scrimmage, what your cues are. The operation sort of takes over.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.