INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – He’s not an orthopedic surgeon or renowned physical therapist, but Jim Sorgi is able to offer insight to what’s going on with and ahead for Andrew Luck.
The former Indianapolis Colts quarterback has been where the current Colts QB finds himself. They share a medical history.
Sorgi endured the long rehabilitation process after undergoing surgery in 2010 to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder. That’s where Luck finds himself after having a similar procedure in mid-January.
Sorgi, Peyton Manning’s backup from 2004-08, is the color analyst for Colts radio broadcasts, but has no direct knowledge of the severity of Luck’s injury, how his rehab has progressed or how much longer before Luck is back in the starting lineup.
There’s every chance Luck returns to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since the last week of December. It would be on a limited basis and, as Sorgi emphasized, there’s still much work to be done.
“It’s purely speculation on my part,’’ he said, “but get him out to practice and do individual drills and things like that before you even think about throwing him in on 7-on-7 or team drills. I’m guessing you really have to try to control all aspects of it. He’ll have the (red) non-contact jersey and you don’t want anyone running into him, jostling him or anything like that.’’
Chuck Pagano said Jacoby Brissett would continue to take the majority of the repetitions with the first unit as long as he’s the starter. Luck would be gradually “integrated’’ into practice, at some point by running the scout-team offense.
Once the team is convinced Luck’s shoulder is sound enough and strong enough to handle a daily workload, that regimen will increase from individual drills to 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 sessions.
That’s when everything is ratcheted up. While “team’’ drills remain somewhat controlled, they nonetheless offer a more realistic game-day setting.
“Then it’s him reacting to what’s going on around him,’’ Sorgi said. “It’s a little bit less of a controlled environment.’’
It’s practice, which is the critical next step in Luck’s comeback.
“Every player needs to practice,’’ general manager Chris Ballard said during training camp. “They need to be with their teammates. They need to go through practice. Andrew is going to need the same thing.’’
The Colts want their $140 million QB healthy enough to endure practice after practice and not require an occasional day off to rest his shoulder. That was the case throughout the 2016 season and for a portion of ‘15. Luck suffered the labrum injury in week three of the 2015 season at Tennessee.
“The last couple of years that’s been an issue,’’ Ballard said. “He hasn’t been able to practice and Andrew would tell you, ‘Hey, I want to get back to where I can practice every day, I can throw to our receivers every day, I can feel the pocket and feel the pressure every day.’
“We want to get back to that point.’’
At some point, Luck must prove to himself he’s able to once again make all the throws; perhaps he already has. That was a hurdle Sorgi had to clear.
It’s one thing to work with the team’s rehab staff and throw short, deep, left, right, with zip, with touch. It’s another to actually play the quarterback position, which requires split-second decisions as well as throwing from a clean passing pocket or delivering the football from awkward positions as a defender is bearing down.
“Can you make the (quick) decision?’’ Sorgi said. “‘Hey, man, I’ve got to zip it in here 8-to-10 yards across the middle.’ When your mind tells you, can your arm do it and still feel fine? That’s the biggest key.’’
Once Sorgi’s post-surgery rehab allowed him to endure serious throwing, he still had to answer internal questions.
“People always talk about throwing and throwing and throwing,’’ he said. “After my surgery, I could go out and throw the deep ball OK. The one I would question in my head was can I rear back and throw it on a line 10, 15 yards with the same speed, velocity and accuracy that I need to have?’’
The Colts have not offered a timeframe for Luck’s return to the lineup. He’s been ruled out of Sunday’s game at Seattle and it’s unlikely he’ll be ready for the Oct. 8 home game with San Francisco. That leaves either Oct. 16 at Tennessee or Oct. 22 at home against Jacksonville.
“A true labrum, they say 6-to-9 months (rehab),’’ Sorgi said. “For a guy you want to come back 100 percent healthy, it’s probably on the longer end of that just to make sure.
“When they get him throwing, it’s not so much throwing when you’re out there with a receiver on air. There is so much more that goes into that. It’s not thinking about it when you have to fire it in there to the sideline or one over the middle. That’s when you’re really going to know that you’re feeling good.
“When he realizes, ‘OK, I’m good to go. I can go out there and play to the best of my abilities and I’m the best option for the team to win,’ he’s going to be out there.
“When he’s ready to go, he’s going to go.’’