INDIANAPOLIS -- The temptation to grab an NFL football and start throwing it is there for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that would likely be the thought of any quarterback who has thrown a football only a handful of times over the past 16 months.
But for Luck -- no matter how bad the urges are these days -- he has to stop himself from twirling the ball around in his hand a few times, then firing a spiral to anybody or anything in the area. The quarterback has made it this far in his latest rehabilitation, taking a methodical approach from his right shoulder surgery in January 2017, that the last thing he and the Colts can afford is another setback.
“It is tough,” said Luck, who isn't revealing a timetable for his return. “One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m quite impatient as a person, and it’s got me into places, looking back at the rehab, that maybe I shouldn’t have been in in the first place. So I don’t want to repeat those, maybe, missteps. I cannot skip steps. I very, very strongly believe in that. Some things just take time, and I’ve learned that. And when I do get the urge to do something a little silly, I talk to myself and say, ‘It’s not worth it right now.’”
Talk to anybody or simply watch Luck play and you'll see the competitiveness oozing from his body. He doesn’t like to miss snaps, no matter the situation. Luck said he has dealt with a “certain amount of guilt” for not being able to play last season, one that ended with a dreadful 4-12 record for the Colts.
That determination works perfectly when Luck’s healthy. His skills covered so many of the Colts’ flaws while leading them to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. But that same drive was a detriment at times for Luck in the nearly three years since he injured his right shoulder in Week 3 of the 2015 season. Luck, not wanting to miss any significant time, continued to play through the pain. He likely would have kept playing in 2015 had he not suffered an unfortunate season-ending lacerated kidney in Week 9.
Luck, after deciding against undergoing shoulder surgery following the 2015 season, aggravated the injury again while trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception against Denver in Week 2 of the 2016 season. The alternative to missing time was Luck being limited in practice at least one day each week for the rest of that season. He missed only one game, and that was due to a concussion suffered against the Tennessee Titans.
“I’ve put a lot of my self-worth in being available for this team and being the best I could for this team, and that maybe is not the healthiest thing in the world to do,” Luck said. “And when I wasn’t available and when I couldn’t help the team and when I maybe felt like I was being a bit of a distraction, that was hard for me to handle.”
Luck, after exhausting every other option, finally decided to have surgery in January 2017. I started to ask Luck whether he would have had the surgery sooner if he could do it over again, but he cut me off before finishing the question.
“I’m going to stop you there, because I’m not even going to go into hypotheticals about would have, should have, could have,” he said. “We are where we are now, and I’m excited about that. And there are a lot of positive things going on in this building.”
Remember Luck’s determination?
It caught up to him again when he returned to practice last October. Luck overdid it while trying to get to the point where he could play in a game. His aggressive mindset backfired, as he was eventually shut down and given a cortisone injection because of continued soreness in his shoulder. Luck, instead of remaining in the country, spent six straight weeks working on his shoulder in the Netherlands in what was an already disastrous season for the Colts.
“I think a couple things, and I don’t think it’s a very simple answer,” Luck said when asked about what happened in October. “I think I pushed a little too hard on certain things and didn’t give the requisite amount of time for certain things to happen. Your body, as I’m learning, will tell you no in certain ways, and you’ve got to listen to it. You can’t force things to happen, and I think I convinced myself that I could force things to happen and I paid for it. I think I felt like I was becoming a distraction. I think I maybe wasn’t the best guy to be around, so I’ve learned from that and that’s why I feel so strongly about the process and the plan that I’m on now.”
It’s easy to see why Luck is steadfast in not bypassing any steps in what has been a grueling rehabilitation process. He’s still not throwing an NFL football, but he's at the point now where he looks fit again and his weight, according to the quarterback, is up to 237 pounds.
“I’d like to think I’m learning from my life,” Luck said. “I’d like to think everybody does that in a sense. Yeah, if you look back there, I don’t want to get into the would have, should have, could have, the hypotheticals. But yeah, I’ve learned certainly from this point of injury on where, 'All right, if it ever happened again, this is maybe how I would handle it a little differently.'"