ORLANDO, Fla. —Andrew Luck is methodically working his way back to throwing a regulation NFL football, which is nothing but good news for the Indianapolis Colts and their franchise quarterback.
Colts head coach Frank Reich on Tuesday told Colts.com that Luck has recently introduced a smaller football into his individual rehab workouts as he continues working his way back from shoulder surgery.
"He's gotten to the point where he is actually throwing smaller footballs," Reich said from the NFL's annual meetings in Orlando. "You know, I did actually make a statement this morning about (Luck) throwing footballs; really, the clarification to that is they are kind of reduced-sized footballs to where you get the motion, but you feel like it's a little bit of a football action. So we're really encouraged by the steps."
Luck underwent surgery to his right throwing shoulder in January 2017 and missed the entire offseason program, training camp and preseason as he recovered and began rehab work, with hopes to returning some time during the regular season.
Although Luck was able to get back to the practice field by October — taking on a very limited role — he eventually reported experiencing some pain in his shoulder and, on Nov. 2, was officially shut down for the rest of the season and placed on Injured Reserve.
Since that time, the quarterback has started an even more intense rehab regimen, and has spent time on his own working with a trainer in the Netherlands, and, more recently, working with throwing expert Tom House out in California.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard said House has been focusing on Luck's lower body mechanics, which will tie into what Luck has already been doing with his upper body to result in less overall strain on the shoulder.
"Now we've got his strength really good," Ballard told Colts.com on Tuesday. "It'll be good for him long-term. If you've watched him in the past, it would be wide-base; Andrew was using more upper body in his throws. Now being able to tie that lower body in, we think's it's going to really help him."
The fact that Luck is now throwing any sort of football is considered a very positive step in his rehab process. While Ballard, Luck and head coach Frank Reich have all stressed the importance of staying true to the program and not skipping steps, Luck heads into the start of the team's offseason workout program on April 9 with some positive momentum that the Colts hope can carry into him being their starting quarterback by Week 1 of the upcoming season.
"The analogy that I've used is like when you have an injury like this it's like a marathon, and there's mile posts along the way, and you just kind of check along each mile post," Reich told reporters Tuesday at the AFC/NFC coaches breakfast in Orlando. "And that's been a good progress at every step — you know, every step's been a checkmark, and we've got a few more steps to go, but all things look good."
Reich said there hasn't been a plan established for Luck once the team does return for the start of the offseason program — the first part is exclusively lifting and conditioning, anyway — but knows Luck will stay in constant communication with team doctors and trainers to continue determining the best course of action moving forward.
"I think what we'll do (with) the plan is he'll get in and certainly interact with our doctors and trainers and evaluate how much he can do," Reich said. "Certainly he's going to participate at some level — that's to be determined. Even if he was full-go, I'm sure there would be some kind of ramp-up mentality. We'll see how it goes when he gets in and gets evaluated."
Could Luck possibly be throwing to his receivers by May or June?
"I really would like to take a guess at that, but I haven't actually put my eyes on him throwing or anything like that — or I haven't gotten in-depth with him to the point of, 'Hey, tell me when you're going to let it rip,'" Reich said. "I just trust that he knows that. And I think at these stages (it's) still early on, so I think it's good to just kind of stay the course, and then I think between Andrew and the doctors and the trainers they'll know when that time is, and (it's) probably the best way to handle it."