INDIANAPOLIS — Sometimes there's nothing better than having a wide-open calendar.
And for the first time in years, the first couple months of Andrew Luck's offseason calendar is virtually a blank canvas.
Fresh off the best season of his career, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback has no injuries to rehab; no surgeries on the docket. He can get some well-deserved rest and relaxation, and then start gearing up for the 2019 season at his own pace.
What, exactly, is that going to be like?
"I don't know," Luck told reporters with a laugh on Sunday. "We will find out."
And that's the point.
Two years ago at this time, Luck was about to undergo surgery to his throwing shoulder. About 10 months later, after trying to work his way back to practice, the quarterback was shut down for the rest of the 2017 season as he continued experiencing pain in that shoulder that not even high-powered cortisone shots could help.
At that point, he has since admitted, Luck wondered to himself if he'd play in an NFL game ever again.
But he certainly wasn't giving up.
By this point last year, Luck had already began embarking on a refocused — and much more intense — rehab regimen with an emphasis on strengthening all of the muscles involved in throwing the football, as well as re-working the base from which he threw. He would fly out to California to train with well-known throwing mechanics expert Tom House, and also worked with Colts officials on developing a plan to get him ready to go for a full workload by training camp.
Sixteen regular season games and two postseason contests later, the whirlwind is finally over for Luck. There's still, of course, disappointment — Luck and his teammates wanted the chance to play two more games for a shot at a Super Bowl title — but, for now, Luck is putting the football down for a while.
And that's a good thing.
"I'll be honest, I probably won't throw for a while," Luck said Sunday, the day after the Colts' 31-13 season-ending loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. "There will be tweaks. There will be changes to what I do but all of it geared to one, make me as happy as possible and two, set me up to improve as a quarterback and improve as a person."
After sitting out the entire 2017 season, Luck's hard work this past offseason paid off for both the quarterback and the Colts, who won 10 regular season games and advanced to postseason play for the first time since the 2014 season.
Playing behind the league's top offensive line — the unit allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks throughout the regular season — Luck was back to his MVP-caliber self in 2018, establishing career highs in pass completions (430), pass attempts (639), completion percentage (67.3) and passer rating (98.7). In all, he threw for 4,593 yards with 39 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.
So, after all that, Luck's head coach, Frank Reich, said he had some advice for Luck for the next few weeks.
"Oh man — he's got to be fired up right now to have a normal offseason; to get away," Reich told reporters on Sunday. "And I know he's Andrew — he's still going to do his deal and be disciplined, but just relax.
"My encouragement to him would be, 'You better do that, you better take advantage of it and get some rest,'" Reich continued. "I am sure he will."
Looking back on his 2018 season, Luck is proud of the work his team put in, as well as what he was able to accomplish individually. Having Reich, a former NFL quarterback himself, in his corner, as well as a new position coach (Marcus Brady) and offensive coordinator (Nick Sirianni) certainly helped, as well.
"I think I threw the ball better, simply. I just think I threw the ball better. I think I learned to manage situations better. I think in the odd sort of self-preservation of a quarterback that maybe that mentality – I think I did that better," Luck said. "I didn't miss any practices during the season. I didn't miss any games."
Luck said he "needed to prove" to himself that he could be "durable."
"Part of playing this position is availability – that ability," Luck said. "Chuck (Pagano) used to talk about that all the time – the abilities and availability is a big deal. With the help of many, many folks and certainly this is not an individual sport, this is certainly a team sport and the greatest team sport in the world. But I'm glad that I was available for this team every game."