INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We’re still waiting for the final phase of Andrew Luck’s rehab. You know, the one where the lifeblood of the Indianapolis Colts is actually throwing a regulation NFL football.
That should occur in the coming weeks since the goal of Luck, and reinforced by comments from general manager Chris Ballard, is for him to be throwing – without restrictions – when training camp opens in late July. For that timetable to be met, Luck would need several weeks of graduated throwing.
Until then, the team’s franchise quarterback is doing all of the other quarterback activities, including honing his footwork and other mechanics that will serve him when he’s back full-go and, in his words, “without a governor on.’’
“He’s completely engaged,’’ coach Frank Reich said Saturday.
And let’s not downplay the importance of Luck immersing himself in every aspect of the Colts’ offseason work – sans whipping the football around the practice field – considering they’re doing so with a new head coach, new offensive coordinator (Nick Sirianni) and, oh yes, new offense.
It’s hard to believe, but Luck is 28 and heading into his seventh season. More to the point, he’s acclimating himself with his fourth coordinator (Bruce Arians, Pep Hamilton, Rob Chudzinski, now Reich/Sirianni).
Each day, Reich realizes he’s inherited someone special. Keep in mind, this is Reich’s offense and he’ll do things his way. But it’s imperative for the coach to be receptive to suggestions from his QB.
“It’s obviously fun to work with a guy who has his football IQ where we can go back and forth on the offense and the system,’’ Reich said. “We are putting our system in and it’s a system we brought here, but getting a lot of feedback from him – little tweaks to it and things that he likes . . . I really enjoy that side of it.
“That might be five or 10 percent of it; tweaking the system or calling it something different that just connects to him better or sounds better. But I really think that’s the art of it. Just connecting with him on that level, and then everything from the physical standout of what he’s doing off the field is going exceedingly well.’’
Open dialogue, according to Reich, is a must.
“As coaches, we can give the offense and the defense . . . we can give a lot of things with the system,’’ he said. “We can give a lot of options, and that’s good for about 90-95 percent of the stuff that you can do on the field. We can have ‘check with me’s’. We can give all kind of tools that we can put in their toolbox that anybody can pull out at any time.
“But then in my mind, there is always about five plays a game where there are certain guys like Andrew, like a Peyton Manning, like a Carson Wentz, or like a Philip Rivers, who . . . have this mental and this high football intelligence. They can do things on the field that not everybody else can do and make a decision and it’s the right decision and then have the physical ability and skill to finish the play and really make a difference in the game.
“Everybody has got to take ownership of the offense and the defense and so on and so forth, but the quarterback is first and foremost on that list.’’
Chris Ballard has been steadfast from the first day he occupied the general manager’s office that the Colts never will be about one player. It’s a 53-man effort, 63 when you consider the practice squad.
His point is valid. But so was Reich’s when he mentioned Luck is one of a handful of quarterbacks capable of truly making a difference in a game’s outcome by executing those five plays a game, or those two or three plays in the fourth quarter.
There’s no stronger evidence than the overriding reason the Colts finished 4-12 last season. Despite their offensive and defensive deficiencies, they enjoyed a halftime lead nine times, but were unable to finish. They were 2-7 in those games.
In Luck’s 76 career games, including the playoffs, the Colts settled into a halftime lead 38 times. They were 34-4 in those games.