INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – There was intermittent laughter, an unquestioned level of optimism and unbridled enthusiasm as Andrew Luck embarked on – brace yourself – year 8.
It’s amazing the difference 12 months can make with anyone, let alone the face and foundation of the Indianapolis Colts.
Last year at this time, Luck still was in the early stages of Rehab 2.0 following surgery on his right shoulder. As the Colts convened for the start of their offseason program, their leader wasn’t even throwing a football.
In that regard, nothing has changed.
“I haven’t thrown at all,’’ Luck revealed Monday afternoon as the Colts again opened preparations for the upcoming season with their offseason program.
That constituted non-breaking news.
This time, it’s been Luck’s decision to exclude throwing from the initial phase of his offseason regimen. For now.
“I’ll have a plan,’’ he said.
Suffice it to say these are the best of times for Andrew Luck, who emerged from the worst of times – surgery in January 2017, a stalled rehabilitation, missing all of ’17 – to last season re-establishing himself as one of the NFL’s upper-tier quarterbacks. The Colts ended a three-year playoff drought by winning nine of their last 10 games. They posted a first-round win at Houston before being overwhelmed at Kansas City.
“Yeah, going into (year) 8,’’ Luck said. “It’s awesome.’’
For the first time since injuring his right shoulder in week 3 of the 2015 season, he was able to actually enjoy the offseason.
Instead of working to regain strength in his right shoulder, Luck and long-time companion Nicole Pechanec were married in Prague in late March.
Instead of fighting demons dancing in his head that instilled doubt whether he’d actually ever play again, Luck, well, danced. He and Los Angeles Angels standout Mike Trout were the co-stars of a “Dueling Disco’’ commercial by BodyArmor.
Marriage, Luck insisted, is “great. It’s great. We’ve been together for a decade, so not much has changed besides the ring on the finger and she’s got great insurance now. That’s good.
“But it’s been awesome. It’s the best day of my life and probably the best offseason I’ve ever had.’’
Again, Luck finally was able to decompress following the lopsided loss to the Chiefs, but only after forcing himself to do so.
“I actually got away, truly,’’ he said. “It took a little bit. I didn’t realize that still I was a little bit on edge from the season, even a month or two afterwards.
“But finally got a chance to get away.’’
He finally heeded the advice of general manager Chris Ballard.
“He kind of challenged me to turn my mind off in a sense,’’ Luck said. “It took a while, but I did get away. I feel refreshed. I got a chance to catch up with a lot of family and friends and folks, and obviously getting married.
“It was a very nice offseason.’’
Initially, he added, it was “weird’’ when he finally was able to get away from it all. Circumstances – surgery and extensive rehab – had greatly tipped the personal-professional offseason balance toward the latter.
“I couldn’t get off that high, if that makes sense,’’ he said. “Emotionally it felt weird not going to work for a while. It took a while to say, ‘This is OK to reset.’
“But I do think it was necessary. Also a chance to regroup, refresh.’’
Now that he’s back to work, Luck can focus on what he does so well, which is serve as the catalyst for a franchise determined to win at least one more Lombardi Trophy to sit alongside the one it captured with the Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears following the 2006 season.
The Colts went into last season as something of an NFL afterthought. Now, they’re among the top-10 favorites to reach Super Bowl LIV in South Florida.
“Every year is different. Faces are different. People are different,’’ Luck said. “The expectations are that you improve and that you have to improve and that’s about the process. Getting the most out of yourself and the most out of each other.
“Certainly we have goals and the goals are the same as last year. You want to win the Super Bowl. You want to win your division. You want to make it to the playoffs. It’s about what we’re doing today to improve. That’ll stay the same every day.’’
Individually, Luck is committed to seizing “ownership’’ of Reich’s offense and being better at getting the Colts into positive plays and steering clear of negative situations. He wants to cut down on his interceptions (15 last season), increase his touchdowns (39 in ’18, second only to Patrick Mahomes’ 50) and boost his completion percentage (a career-best 67.1 a year ago).
“There’s certainly a challenge for myself this offseason and one I’m looking forward to,’’ he said.
If that checklist is adequately dealt with, perhaps Luck can work on his dance moves in case there’s a Dueling Discos II.
His initial reaction when BodyArmor approached regarding the commercial: No thanks.
“My initial reaction to just about everything is ‘No,’’ Luck said with a smile. “And then I thought about it and talked to my agent. He said Mike Trout was interested and I admire him very much.
“I thought about it and said, ‘Why not?’ I think I feel more comfortable making fun of myself than trying to be cool. A chance to make fun of myself was alright.’’
David Shaw, Luck’s coach at Stanford, saw the commercial. So did Shaw’s kids.
“David Shaw emailed me and said his kids made him rewind it four or five times,’’ Luck said. “And I know his kids pretty well.’’
The dance moves were taught by a “very good choreographer,’’ he said, “but yes, that was me. I can’t own those moves. Maybe next offseason I can own those moves.’’
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