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As Colts get back to work, Luck opens up

Andrew Luck said camp was a "goal" but the full season was an "expectation." (1070 the Fan photo)

The Colts are back to work and, though the season is still months away, the word games have begun.

At least as they apply to Andrew Luck.

Here are the two that stuck out Monday, his first media availability since undergoing surgery on his right shoulder January: goal and expectation.

As in, being ready for training camp is a goal. Being ready for the start of the regular season is an expectation. But there will be nothing resembling a timeline -- at least not for the public.

“I am in day one of the offseason official program and I am where the (physical therapists), doctors and trainers say I am, and that’s honestly the approach I’ve taken,” Luck said. “Timeline-wise, I need to be this by this date, I’m not going to worry about it. I have full trust in the guys helping me out and when we feel like I’m ready, then I’ll be ready.”

Asked if he could be ready for training camp, Luck said it was “a goal, certainly.”

Asked if he expected to play a full regular season, the answer was a little more decisive: “Yeah, yeah, yes, absolutely. That’s the goal, that’s the expectation.”

Luck did admit the injury originally occurred in Week 3 of the 2015 season, a comeback victory in Tennessee. A lacerated kidney and ruptured spleen ultimate cut that year short after seven games. After meeting with the team’s medical staff after that season, Luck opted for rehab rather than surgery.

“We sort of sat down after that year and felt like rehab was the way to go and I think that was the absolute correct decision,” he said. “We did some awesome things. This year happened, obviously, and what transpired through this year and sat down after this year and decided, you know what? Maybe it was time to do surgery on it. ...

“We had a very intense, precise rehab plan that I went through last offseason and it got me to a point to play good football. Certain things happened in games that you cannot control, sort of re-aggravations, and decided at the end of this year, with all the information we compiled that this was the best way to move forward and I have no regrets on either of those decisions.”

In the meantime, Luck will continue the rehab process while spending as much classroom and meeting time as possible with his coaches and teammates, trying to prepare as much as possible for the upcoming season.

“We’re year two in this offense and everybody on the offense needs to be taking the next step,” he said. “Part of that plan, part of that journey is sitting down with the wideouts, the tight ends, the quarterbacks, the linemen and making sure we truly are on the same page when it comes to the scheme, when it comes to little things. That’s a lot of my focus right now because (he) can’t get on the field and throw with the guys and sort of translate that. We’ve got some ground to cover in the meetings, that’s for sure. … 

“There’s a plan that involves rehab and lifting and running and there’s certain things I can do with the group, there’s certain things I cannot. And I do the best I can within that plan and have good, concentrated effort in the right direction so I don’t feel like I have to make up anything. Certainly, I’m not going to be able to throw. I get that. I’m not going to be able to take snaps with the guys and hand off and do all that jazz. But I’m not worried about making anything up. I’m trying to focus on doing what I can do well.”

There were several other interesting morsels from Luck’s teammates, many of whom are also coming back from surgery.

>> Defensive end Kendall Langford (knee) guaranteed he’d be ready for camp. And he didn’t stop there.  

“We will be better (defensively) than we were last year. I can guarantee that,” he said. “We brought some guys in who add talent to our group. Guys just have to come in and put in hard work. … I think everybody in this room, I think everybody in this organization knows that 8-8 is no good. Nine and seven, no good.”

>> Darius Butler, looking noticeably thicker through his upper body, said he was working on adding a few pounds of weight because of the transition from cornerback to safety. 

“It’ll be obviously more physically taxing,” he said. “My first eight years in the league I’ve been more fast-twitch, trying to stay close with guys, tackling smaller guys. Now I’ll be matched up with bigger guys here and there, tackling running backs a little more.” 

Butler said he normally reports to camp around 185, but is targeting 190 this year.

>> Henry Anderson was visibly enthusiastic about his health. After undergoing ACL surgery in 2015, he arrived late last season and continued to have trouble with the knee.  

“I kept tweaking it and it was just kind of bothering me all year so having a full three-plus months to get it right helped a lot,” he said. .”I tried not to think about it but certain movements hurt really bad. I was constantly having to play conservatively because I knew certain positions and certain movements like flipping my hips and kind of turning the corner would  make it hurt pretty bad.” 

And now? 

“I’m out there cutting and doing all the drills I’ve done this offseason and I haven’t really thought about it and it feels pretty much back to normal,” he said. “I think having a full offseason where I’m not really rehabbing, I’m more just doing strength training and explosive work and stuff like that helps a lot with the confidence part of it.”

>> Anderson also had an interesting take on new teammate Johnathan Hankins. 

“I know he was a hell of a player in New York,” he said. “I don’t know too much about him. But I know what you guys write. But obviously, he’s making that much money, he’s probably a pretty good player.”

>> Jack Mewhort said continuity with the offensive line has allowed unit chemistry to build, although perhaps in an unusual way this offseason.

“You think about the stereotypical NFL player’s a cool guy that likes to get in the warm weather and hang out in the nightclubs. The opposite of that is our offensive line room,” he said. “We’re all pretty much Midwest guys -- Le’Raven (Clark)’s a Texas guy -- we don’t have a ton going on socially so we like to hang out with each other and we enjoy each other. We’re friends and we’ve been through a lot together just in that year with those young guys. We enjoy being together, laughing, hanging out. That’s all we do pretty much: laugh, hang out and eat. That’s the gist of it.”

>> Mewhort played with Hankins for three seasons and linebacker John Simon four at Ohio State, and offered a promising scouting report on two of the Colts’ most prized defensive free agents.

“I love those guys,” he said. “I’ve seen who they are as football players and they’ve had success in the NFL so far, both of them. They’re tough, they’re grinders and I believe they’ll be good for our team. I’m happy to have them here. I’m not super-happy I’m going to have to be going against them every day in practice but they’re good players and I think they’re going to be great Colts.”

>> Check out what Hankins had to say, when asked what he knew about the Colts defense as he entered free agency:

“Not too much,” he said. “I found out they were pretty bad -- not pretty bad -- but struggled against the run. I felt like this was a nice opportunity to come in and join the team.”

He had it right the first time. Pretty bad works.

>> It was hard not to be impressed by the confidence and maturity of new wide receiver Kamar Aiken.

“There’s definitely a lot of competition and I’m coming in to play,” said the former Raven. “If any guy in that room isn’t looking at being the guy, looking to play, this ain’t the league for you. I’m coming in looking to play. It’s a talented group. I’ve got to find my spot and find where I fit in.”

And he clearly doesn’t think that’ll be a problem.

“I kind of mold myself to the offense,” he said. “ I bring a different physicality to the game but at the same time I’m a speed guy as well. A lot of guys like to label people. I’m not one of those that likes to be labeled. I feel like I can do what I’m asked. ...

“I definitely play with a different chip. I don’t think it’s because of my size, it’s just how I was raised and how I was brought up to play the game. I actually like playing the game more physical like that. I’m at my best when it’s physical like that.”

After catching 75 passes in 2015, Aiken appeared to have established himself as a primary target in Baltimore, but he nearly vanished from the offense in 2016 with just 29 receptions, and he acknowledge the frustration.

“When Sunday came, it went out the window, I was back to playing football again,” he said. “But throughout the weeks I could definitely say I struggled with it a little bit. I never made it show because I knew I had young guys in the room looking at me so I didn’t want them to get the wrong picture on how you handle stuff so I kind of bottled it up. It was a growing experience. At the same time I knew how to handle it and I feel like I’m better now for it.”


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