Despite Luck's confidence, concern remains
His words were carefully constructed on a foundation of reassurance.
Andrew Luck expressed the utmost confidence that he not only will come back all the way, but be even better than before surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Why, then, am I still unconvinced that all is as well as the Colts would like us to believe?
Because for all the optimism in the broad strokes, the devil remains firmly rooted in the details.
“I would say there’s no reason to freak out,” Luck said Saturday morning, the first player to greet the media as the veterans reported for training camp. “I will be better than I was coming into this. I’ll be better coming out of it. I know that. I don’t know what day it’s going to be. I don’t know what week, I don’t know when it’s going to be but I definitely will be and there’s no reason to freak out.”
Luck looked bigger and stronger than his last media session in mid-June. His tone was decidedly optimistic and confident, but then it almost always is.
“I know every day it’s improved and I really feel this way, especially in the last couple weeks, month, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, if you will,” he said. “I truly feel in my mind and in my heart that I know I’m going to be better. I really, really know I’m going to be better. And so I really try not to lose focus on that and not get sideways just because we have a team practice tomorrow (at Lucas Oil Stadium).
“To everybody’s credit in this building, from Mr. Irsay to Chris Ballard to Chuck (Pagano) to Chud (Rob Chudzinski), Schotty (Brian Schottenheimer), the doctors, the trainers, I have not felt any undue pressure or unwanted pressure to do something that might not be in my best self-interest. And it’s weird to sort of be selfish, in a sense, but from talking to guys and the trainers and doctors and everybody, you sort of have to make sure you take care of yourself in a situation like this. And I feel like what the Colts are providing is best for me, absolutely. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I’ve been here rehabbing, and that’s why I’ve been here training.”
If you feel like there’s a but coming, here it is: he wouldn’t even acknowledge whether he has thrown a football yet.
He has been in a “throwing program” for at least a week, maybe two, but that doesn’t mean he is tossing the old pigskin around. It started with a tennis ball, more than likely underhand tosses, gradually increasing the distance and range of motion before advancing to a heavier object.
As forthcoming and encouraging as Luck tried to be when asked general questions, he declined to get into details about just exactly what he is throwing, how far he is throwing, or if he is even using an overhand motion.
“The process of regaining throwing starts way before picking up a tennis ball,” he said. “This process starts in theory when surgery ended. There’s a lot of strength work and mobility and range of motion, stability work that goes into just being able to pick up something let alone winning it back and sort of toss it. I hesitate to get into specifics of what I did and where I was but I started with a tennis ball. ...
“I’m not going to get any more specific than I started with a tennis ball in honor of Wimbledon. That was fun to watch.”
Wouldn’t you think, if he was able to throw a football, Luck would not only be willing but eager to say so?
And then there remained the lingering issue of timeline. Almost since the moment he entered the recovery room after labrum surgery in January, Luck and the Colts have been firmly aligned, consistently denying the presence of a timeline.
Of course, there’s a timeline. They just won’t tell us.
“Yes and no,” Luck said. “From what I understand, everybody responds to surgeries differently and everybody’s truly different. There are rough parameters that you’d say, ‘Yeah, maybe you should be here by this date or should be there by this date,’ but I’ve felt like how I’ve progressed is how I needed to progress and how my body and how my shoulder would handle things. I haven’t been too worried or too caught up in, ‘I need to be here by a certain date or here by a certain date’ because it’s unfair to the process that I’m going through with the doctors, trainers, everybody. And it’s also a dangerous game to sort of count backwards from a certain date and say, ‘OK, there’s a date in late August or September that you have to be ready.’
“I think that’s completely unfair to the process and will end up causing worse issues if you’re skipping steps in the long-term, and probably in the short-term if you really, truly do it right. And that’s what I feel good about because I know we’re doing this right. I really do. Great doctors, great physical therapists, great strength work, great conditioning work, great rehab work. I don’t feel like we’re skipping any steps. I know I’ve tried to be, and everybody around, very methodical through this whole process and we’re not going to rush it to rush it. I think that would be the worst thing we could do.”
Nearly seven months since the surgery, there is no evidence Luck has thrown a football. The regular season begins in six weeks and one day, Sept. 10 in Los Angeles against the Rams.
Whenever Luck does return to practice, remember, this will be a quarterback that hasn’t thrown a competitive pass, or taken a hit, in at least seven months. It will take time to shift the mindset from patient to quarterback.
“I love practice, and I love to be out there for every practice of every week and I know that at some point I will be able to do that,” Luck said. “No one wants to miss practice, no one wants to miss training camp but I’m confident that when the time is right for me and when I’m able to practice -- whenever that is -- that I’ll be up to speed and good enough to be productive in games and give this team my best.”
Luck’s presence on the PUP list entering camp would be wholly unnecessary if the Colts were confident he’d be ready for the season opener, because it gives them the option of extending his PUP time once the games begin. Had Luck been active, even for one day of camp, that PUP option for the regular season would’ve disappeared.
This much is clear: that might still be a possibility, but it isn’t the target.
“The end game is for me to be better than I was before I got injured and I don’t want to put a date on that, in a sense,” he said. “I think that’s really sort of unfair. I know when I’m playing things are going to be weird for a sense. From guys I’ve talked to that have gone through shoulder injuries at this position, it’s different and it takes a little time to sort of find the groove, if you will, and find the rhythm. But I think if we continue to stay vigilant with this process, doing it the right way then I will find that groove and I will be better than I was going in.”
But this is one of those instances where you believe your eyes much more than your ears. And what we don’t see, yet, is the more telling truth.
Photo of Andrew Luck by 1070 the Fan