INDIANAPOLIS — To Chris Ballard, the Indianapolis Colts' St. Patrick's Day trade with the New York Jets set in motion much more than simply moving down three spots and acquiring three second-round picks.
The move was also a clear vote of confidence in his quarterback.
With as many as four quarterback prospects expected to be hot commodities in the upcoming NFL Draft, Ballard said Friday that it wouldn't have been wise to move from No. 3 to No. 6 overall if there were any sorts of qualms about Andrew Luck's continued rehab work on his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder.
But, by pulling the trigger on the move on March 17 — the Colts traded the No. 3 overall pick to the Jets for the No. 6, 37 and 49 picks in this year's draft, as well as New York's second-round pick next year — Ballard and the Colts are assertive in their belief that Luck's short-term and long-term prognosis is solid.
Earlier this offseason, Ballard said he felt Luck would come back even better than he was prior to his surgery. He didn't back off those comments Friday, when asked if that feeling has wavered at all over the past couple months.
"Not at all," Ballard told reporters at his pre-draft press conference. "We traded the third pick of the draft to move back to six. I thought that said we're pretty confident about where he's at."
Ballard said Luck is still wrapping up the strength portion of his rehab work, and while he is still yet to throw a regulation NFL football as part of his workouts, that doesn't mean Luck hasn't had the ability to.
"A lot of the exercises he's doing is conducive to the same thing," Ballard said.
"(I) feel good about where Andrew's at; feel good about where he's going," Ballard continued. "No negative, just keep doing the process of what he's doing, keep working and get him back to playing good football."
The Colts on Thursday wrapped up Phase 1 of their offseason workout program, which is exclusive to strength and conditioning work, as well as the installation of the team's new offensive and defensive playbooks.
By virtue of having a first-year head coach in Frank Reich, the Colts will take advantage of a league rule that allows them to hold an extra voluntary veteran minicamp, which the team is hosting next week.
And while that will be the first opportunity for the Colts players to get out onto the field and actually take part in football drills this offseason, there's no indication that Luck will be an active participant in those workouts.
Luck, who recently admitted to trying to cut some corners last year in his recovery in an effort to get back onto the field quicker, has taken a deliberate, step-by-step approach in his rehab work since being placed on IR on Nov. 2. Simply putting Luck on the field next week for an early-offseason session just to see where he's at would go against that plan, Ballard said.
"Let me tell you this … Andrew pressed last year. I mean, he pressed to get back," Ballard said. "Everybody heals at a different rate; you know, we talked about this. But Andrew wanted to play, and he pressed to get back. Things just didn't work out to where he could play last year.
"He's not going to skip a step this time — not that he did last time — but he wanted to play, and he pressed to play. I think he's going to take every step it takes necessary to be ready to go and be ready for camp."