INDIANAPOLIS — Well, the Indianapolis Colts’ first mandatory minicamp practice of 2018 was eventful Tuesday. Not only did we get our first looks at quarterback Andrew Luck throwing a football for the first time since last fall, but team owner Jim Irsay also spoke to the media.
When Irsay speaks, the most important of topics are being covered, so let’s get down to it. Here are some of the top takeaways from his session with reporters:
— Irsay: “Having Andrew on the field, I mentioned it before, things change. When you have that guy on the field, everyone knows you’ve got a chance and the sky is the limit. We couldn’t be more excited.”
● The top takeaway from the day was Luck and his return to throwing at practice. The tone when Irsay, Luck and head coach Frank Reich spoke was optimistic toward Luck being available for Week 1 of the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals. When you have a quarterback on the field the caliber of Luck, everyone in the building knows that team still has a chance in almost any in-game scenario: his teammates, his opponents, the coaches, the fans — everyone. That is evidenced by Luck’s 17 career game-winning drives, according to Pro Football Reference.
— Q: “How much of a relief and how satisfying will it be to see Andrew Luck practice in full or play a game for you personally?”
Irsay: “It’s worth the price of admission and more when you have a guy like that on the field and is healthy. He doesn’t always know what he is going to do and that’s exciting. Good quarterbacks are obviously all very exciting and important to watch, but he has got that extra flare like Brett Favre and a couple of the guys that makes them even more exciting than most because when everything breaks down, you just don’t know what he is going to do. We’ve kind of tried to say, ‘Well sometimes Andrew just shut down the play,’ and it’s easier said than done because when you have greatness like that you kind of think, ‘I’m not shutting this play down. There is still a chance I can throw the ball through the eye of the needle,’ so to speak. So it’s going to be really exciting to see him back out there.”
● Continuing on the last point, part of the reason why Luck’s teams are never out of the game is because he has that special “it” factor Irsay alluded to. Between his confidence, football I.Q. and physical ability, Luck is able to make the most unlikely of plays come true.
— Q: “Do you have any doubt that Andrew Luck won’t be on the field in the season opener against the Bengals?”
Irsay: “I don’t. I see him progressing along. I think the schedule that he’s going to be taking now in terms of throwing, throwing, resting, working on the shoulder with certain exercises. I mean really, it’s probably going to be the way he’s going to be doing it for the next years to come. I think there’s not going to be really any huge adjustment from this point going forward. We think he can play a long time. Interestingly enough, some of the guys that have worked with him have said that he’s special. Just body fat ratio to muscle (is) almost incomparable except LeBron James and maybe a couple other guys that some of these guys that have worked with him have said. And they’ve said, ‘Hey, he can play probably beyond his 40s.’’
● The big thing here is that Luck is currently in the regimen that the Colts anticipate him being in for the foreseeable future, give or take some tweaks. The good news with that seems to be that the only boxes to check off are that of progressively throwing footballs, working up to regularly throwing a regulation NFL football.
Irsay: “There’s some real youth, obviously, at running back, but we like three of those guys, at least, and hopefully four.”
● Three or four running backs is a pretty standard amount to keep on a roster, but it being mentioned at this juncture points to a potentially exciting competition in camp. The Colts currently have six running backs on the roster: Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Christine Michael and Josh Ferguson.
Irsay: “The offensive line, I think, is going to be improved. We’re hoping (Denzelle) Good will start at right tackle, we’re hoping (Braden) Smith joins (Quenton) Nelson at guard and we’re hoping, obviously, (Ryan) Kelly stays healthy and (Anthony) Castonzo plays like he’s capable of playing. That way, (Joe) Haeg can back up – Haeg has done a great job at center, too, and that’s been a big plus for us because backup center is a little more important than you realize if you have an injury. Haeg has really done well at center. That’s been a little bit of a – I won’t say surprise – but it’s been an added plus for us. It makes the offensive line that much better.”
● Things tend to be explained very broadly in terms of who is competing for what spot on a roster, but it was good to get some clarity from Irsay on a couple of spots. Hoping to having a starting offensive line of Anthony Castonzo (LT), Quenton Nelson (LG), Ryan Kelly (C), Braden Smith (RG) and Denzelle Good (RT) leans on quite a bit of youth. At Tuesday’s minicamp practice, veterans Matt Slauson and Austin Howard were in with the theoretical first-team offense at right guard and right tackle, respectively. It’s only June minicamp, so nothing is official and training camp will determine quite a bit, but it is interesting to see how this thought process might translate to which players we see getting what reps come late-July. Joe Haeg being the sixth man would be rather invaluable to this group, as he has game experience just about everywhere on the offensive line, save for center. However, like Irsay mentioned, Haeg has practiced at center this offseason.