WESTFIELD, Ind. — By the time the Indianapolis Colts reported for the first official day of training camp on July 26, many outsiders were wondering if quarterback Andrew Luck's surgically-repaired shoulder would be able to handle a full practice load.
Sure, Luck had been seeing tremendous progress since late 2017, when he started an intense rehab regimen, and he had even ramped up his throwing program in the break between veteran minicamp and the start of training camp.
But having the ability to make dozens of throws, day after day? It was just more of a "let's see it to believe it" type of approach.
And here we are, more than three extremely successful weeks later, and the storyline surrounding Luck is no longer about how his shoulder will hold up. In fact, people are talking more about No. 12's mustache than his right shoulder.
"I wanted to get better every day, and I felt like I did," Luck told reporters on Saturday — the final day of training camp practices at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. "That's really cool and that's really special."
With a solid plan in place, Luck was able to mimic a regular-season practice schedule as much as possible during training camp, basically throwing four days a week like he would on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday during the season. And, the way the camp schedule was set up, that meant Luck did not throw in just three of 18 training camp practices.
In 15 practices, Luck completed 241-of-326 passes (74 percent) with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He knocked off some obvious rust early — as in, his very first practice — but from there he really started to get his bearings and showed visible improvement.
Beyond the sheer numbers and the production, however, the Colts were ecstatic just to get their leader back on the field commanding the offense.
"It's been from day one. He's had that, as you said, pep in his step and good energy," Colts head coach Frank Reich said of Luck. "I can't emphasize that enough. Just really, really good energy coming from him and the team but obviously him as our leader on the field – one of our leaders on the field. You can just feel it. It's palpable out there and then having playmaking to go behind it which is very important which he's doing that as well."
Luck also took another huge step forward on Aug. 9 by taking part in his first NFL game action in almost 600 days. In the Colts' 2018 preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Luck looked sharp, connecting on 6-of-9 passes for 64 yards and leading the first-team offense on two scoring drives (both Adam Vinatieri field goals).
And, perhaps most relieving to all involved, Luck, who played into the early portion of the second quarter, was able to take a couple hits from the Seattle defenders in his two drives, and popped right back up with no issues whatsoever.
"I think there was a sense of, 'OK, get hit, get up, make sure you're not broken in half on the field,'" Luck said after the game. "It was probably the most excited I have been and will ever be for getting hit."
There are still boxes left to be checked for Luck to be 100 percent ready to go by the Colts' regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 9. He's expected to play into the second quarter once again on Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, and tradition calls for the starters to play about a half in the third preseason game.
But Luck is darn close to where he wants to be, and training camp proved to be nothing but positive for the Colts' quarterback and their offense.
"I'm having so much fun playing football again," Luck said on Saturday. "I'm having fun with these guys. I'm having fun with this team. We're doing things better. I know I'm doing things better. There is a whole boat load of work to be done, a whole boat load. By no means though are we anywhere close to what we hope the finished product looks like, but the beauty of it is that we are not worried about that right now.
"We're worried about getting better every day, and that's how Frank (Reich) has us working. That's how our team is improving, and I think we've done some good stuff today."
Highlights of Andrew Luck during the final night practice of the Colts 2018 Training Camp!