INDIANAPOLIS — About three weeks ago, Andrew Luck saw an NFL football on the ground and had an inclination.
He called up his head coach, Frank Reich, and asked if he wanted to meet up at the Indianapolis Colts’ facility.
To that point, it had been months — more than seven, to be exact — since Luck had actually thrown a regulation NFL football. Back in October, as he tried to work his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, Luck had started throwing again in practice, only to experience pain and discomfort and eventually be shut down for the year.
But after months of a much more intense rehab regimen — one that included an obvious focus on upper-body strength and a better base to throw from to help alleviate the stress on the shoulder — Luck, who eventually added weighted balls and mini footballs into his workouts, was ready to see where he was with a real football.
So after going through his normal workout that day, Luck added a twist to the end: a simple game of catch with his head coach — but with “The Duke” this time.
Fast forward to Tuesday, and Luck was seen throwing a football — albeit a smaller, lighter one than a regulation NFL ball — in a practice setting for the first time since October.
It was simply just the next step in his work to get back onto the field for the Colts, but considering the setting, it was an exciting step to take, nonetheless.
“Yeah, it was fun,” Luck told reporters after Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp practice session. “It’s another step, no bigger, no smaller than any of the other ones. I am thrilled with how this offseason has gone for me. I’m really, really excited. I know you guys don’t see me every day, we don’t talk that much, but a lot happens every day, every week that makes me feel really, really good – one, not only about myself, but also what this ball club is doing.”
Luck still has an overall goal of being ready for more of a full practice load — taking actual reps with the offense — when training camp begins in late-July.
To accomplish that goal, Luck said he’s started a routine that has seen him mimic more of a regular-season routine throwing-wise, which he said will carry into camp.
“Big picture, my goal was to be able to throw as much as I need to, like on a game week,” Luck said. “A Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at practice and then Sunday, let it loose, no count, nothing. You’ve got to go and let it go. So that’s what I’m preparing for, that’s why right now I throw Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Fridays to mimic a three-day sort of practice week and then a Friday as a Sunday as a game week.”
Luck says he can already tell a vast difference in the way his shoulder has responded to his throwing program now compared to last October, when he eventually would be shut down and placed on Injured Reserve.
Back then, Luck felt significant pain in his shoulder after practices, and tried to work his way through it. Now, Luck feels soreness, but it’s a natural feeling he associated with throwing prior to when he originally suffered his shoulder injury back in 2015.
“My arm feels normal,” Luck said. “Doing things feels normal. It’s very hard to explain.”
Reich said he anticipates Luck will do even more throwing tomorrow, perhaps again during the early portion of practice in positional drills before going to work off on his own for the rest of the session.
“You only saw a little bit today, but that’s what we did last week. This mimicked exactly what we did last week. We didn’t change anything except for the fact that he came out here,” Reich said. “Then tomorrow will be a little bit more throwing than he did today. I can just tell you he has looked really good in his sessions. There have been enough sessions that I have seen — with whatever kind of ball it is — it’s looked good.”
And as long as he keeps getting positive results with every step he takes, Luck could eventually find himself not only being an active participant during training camp practices, but getting snaps during preseason games and, ultimately, finding himself under center to start the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“No, no knock on wood. I’m going to be there,” Luck said about his confidence that he’ll play Week 1 against the Bengals. “I’ll be playing. I believe it in my bones.”