INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck was on a clear pitch count throughout training camp and the preseason, with the Indianapolis Colts doing their best to ensure he wasn't even close to being overwhelmed physically.
At the time, of course, Luck was in the process of clearing his final hurdles to get back to full health after missing the entire 2017 season due to surgery to his throwing shoulder.
But apparently Luck wasn't kidding when he said he had no restrictions as he headed into the regular season.
After throwing no more than 33 pass attempts during any training camp practice — and no more than 13 pass attempts during his limited appearances in three preseason games — Luck was let loose in the Colts' 2018 regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, as he attempted an astounding 53 pass attempts — completing 39 of them, a career-high — in Indy's 34-23 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The heavy dose of throwing, as well as a couple hard hits taken throughout the game, had Luck feeling like he had been in a "serious car wreck" the following morning, but as it pertained to his surgically-repaired shoulder, Luck said he was left encouraged after the game.
"Yeah, I was sore. I felt a couple of those hits," Luck said. "Otherwise, I think I came out fairly clean. I felt like I had juice left in my arm, which I am excited about."
Perhaps most importantly, Luck has gained the confidence over the past couple weeks that his arm strength, always one of his most dangerous tools prior to surgery, "is where it needs to be."
While Luck threw only a few longer pass attempts during the Bengals game — none of which were just all-out bombs — he said his work in practice has really helped in that area.
"I've proven to myself – especially in practice – that I can go out and make those deeper throws," Luck said. "So I feel very comfortable with that. Certainly like anything, there is always room to improve – being more accurate with the deep balls and different types of deep balls. So, I'll keep working on them."
The task at hand now is to find more success against a Washington Redskins defense that put the clamps down on Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford in their 2018 season opener last Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
Bradford completed 20-of-34 passes for just 153 yards with no touchdowns and one interception — a good chunk of that coming in the final minutes — as the Redskins dominated their way to a 24-6 victory to move to 1-0 on the year.
The Colts and Redskins do battle on Sunday at FedExField, and while the Colts hope to get more out of their run game in that matchup, Luck is certainly well aware what he's up against when he does drop back to pass.
"Washington's defense is tough," Luck said. "They can rush the passer. (Ryan) Kerrigan is very, very good. He's special. Their defensive linemen – their secondary, Josh Norman is a ballhawk. He's been doing it very well for a long time. D.J. Swearinger, I remember him from Houston and playing in our division. He does a heck of a job. So we will have our hands full, but we are excited.
"It's the NFL," Luck continued. "Every weekend brings its new challenges and that's another reminder for me – something that I had forgotten over the past year."