WESTFIELD, Ind. – This much we know about Andrew Luck and his left calf and when it might actually allow him to return to playing quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts: there’s a lot we know, but a lot we don’t know.
We know Luck first injured the calf in late April or early May, and it kept him off the practice field during the offseason. He practiced three times on a limited basis during the first week of training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus, but the pain returned.
Luck didn’t practice Tuesday and won’t practice Wednesday or Thursday. He then will be re-evaluated to determine whether the calf will allow him to return Saturday.
“It’s a stubborn one, I guess,’’ he said, forcing a laugh.
On a few occasions during 7-on-7 work, Luck was hesitant to trust the calf, cut loose and just play the position.
“Just opening up a little bit,’’ he explained. “It’s like, ‘I feel like something is going to yank, something is going to pull trying to change direction aggressively.’ That is something that you need to do to play football, you know?
“And I am not there yet.’’
But we don’t know – Luck doesn’t know – when he might get there. Frank Reich’s long-range plan never had even a 100-percent Luck playing in the Aug. 8 preseason opener or Aug. 29 wrap-up at Cincinnati. In question now, though, is whether he steps on the Lucas Oil Stadium field Aug. 17 against Cleveland or Aug. 24 against Chicago.
“We want to get him out there a little bit,’’ Reich said, “but it’s not absolutely necessary.’’
Luck was confident he had made the necessary progress in his rehab when camp opened. However, the pain either remained or returned after three scaled-back practices.
“Yeah, you can say setback,’’ he said. “I like to view it (as) not where I want to be. I did not improve feeling-wise, pain-wise. And this is something that I vowed to myself after going through 2016 and 2017 that I would be, one, honest with myself about how I felt pain-wise with things. (And) two, honest with the parties involved – Chris (Ballard), Frank (Reich), our medical staff, teammates, whomever – and make sure that I took the time, that we took the time, to make good decisions about going forward.
“I know I did not improve with the past three practices. There’s a part of me that (feels) guilty for not being at practice . . . but I also know it’s a detriment to me, and at the end of the day a detriment to the team if I dodo bird this situation.’’
We know Luck will focus on walk-throughs until his balky calf allows him to, you know, actually practice.
“Walk-throughs are my practices,’’ he said.
He’s getting in some throwing during that practice time, although from a stationary position.
“On a positive note, I feel really good throwing,’’ he said with a laugh. “Maybe somebody could write that.’’
Also, we know Luck has every intention of being under center Sept. 8 when the Colts open the season against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
“Absolutely, absolutely,’’ he said. “But being ready is just a consequence of doing the right things today, this afternoon, tomorrow morning.’’
Reich is optimistic Luck would be available if the Colts had a “big game’’ this weekend.
“Do I think he’d play? Yeah,’’ he said. “But again, only he can answer that. You have to trust the players and that’s what we’re doing in this case.’’
Luck abhors hypothetical questions, and wasn’t quick to embrace one dealing with whether he would play a meaningful game if his calf was in its current state.
“I have played in games with way more pain just like everybody in the NFL has,’’ he said. “I don’t think I am special in that regard by any means.’’
But here’s the reality of the situation: Luck is special to an entire franchise, and he knows it. That’s why his frustration was evident Tuesday.
“It can be a difficult thing,’’ he said. “You feel like there are a lot of stakeholders when you are quarterback of an NFL team.’’
He gains comfort from sharing his feelings and frustrations with Ballard, Reich and his teammates, with his wife, Nicole, and his family.
“It helps,’’ Luck insisted. “I don’t feel quite alone like I did at times in 2016, 2017.’’
He’s dealt with health-related uncertainties before – remember 2017 and the right shoulder issues that forced him to miss the season in its entirety? – and that experience has offered guidance and barriers.
“I still have some emotional scars from that and that lives with me still,’’ Luck said. “But I’m trying to use it in a positive way.’’
We know Luck’s strained calf is just that, a strained calf. He recently mentioned to NFL Network he was dealing with a calf and lower-leg injury.
“I say lower leg because I feel pain in my ankle area and calf strain,’’ he said. “I’ve had (MRIs), X-rays and everything. My Achilles is not an extra risk. There is no tear or swelling or anything that’s indicated.’’
During the early stages of evaluating the injury, the option of surgery was considered but quickly discarded.
The overriding objective is for Luck to return to practice and resume control of the offense. But first he must get closer to 100 percent.
“I know to be the best quarterback I want to be, to help this team like I want to help them . . . I’m not looking for average,’’ he said. “And if I’m going out here in pain, I’ll be average. I will feel like an average quarterback, and I’ll be an average quarterback. That’s not good enough for me. That’s not good enough for this club.’’
The hope is giving Luck Tuesday and the next three days off will help remedy a persistent situation. The goal is to resolve the issue.
“We are all working on resolving this so it’s not a lingering issue,’’ he said. “I could not live myself if we got to the season or a point in the season where I said, ‘Hey, I could have done this to take care of this issue but I didn’t because of X, Y or Z.’ I’m not going to allow that to happen.’’
And be sure to catch the Colts Bluezone Podcast: