INDIANAPOLIS — The writing was on the wall about three weeks ago.
When Andrew Luck had experienced some soreness in his surgically-repaired right shoulder after making his return to the practice field for the first time all year, the Indianapolis Colts decided to temporarily shut down the quarterback's throwing program, give him a cortisone shot and wait it out.
But, over time, the soreness in Luck's shoulder never really went away.
Puzzled, Luck and the Colts sought the opinion of several doctors, each of whom came away with the same message: be patient and continue rehab.
So with the second half of the 2017 season upon them, the Colts decided to do just that. On Thursday, the team announced it was placing Luck on injured reserve, officially ending his season and any hope that No. 12 could return to the field for the Colts at some point during the rest of the year.
"The shoulder's subjective, and after a surgery, everybody's different; everybody rehabs in a different way," Colts general manager Chris Ballard told reporters on Thursday. "So we're going to shut his throwing down and we're going to continue rehab — we're going to continue hard rehab — and we think for the long-term interest of Andrew, this is the best course of action."
Ballard said the organization was "optimistic" all along that Luck, who had the surgery in January and missed the entire offseason workout program, minicamp, training camp, preseason and the first few weeks of the regular season, would be able to return to the field for the Colts at some point this season.
And Luck was able to return to practice, albeit in a very limited role, on Oct. 4 and 6, when he went through individual drills and threw some routes to receivers against air. The next week, Luck was able to increase his workload a little bit by facing a live defense for the first time this year, as he took a few snaps as the scout team quarterback in 7-on-7 drills.
But even before that point, Ballard and head coach Chuck Pagano had emphasized that patience would continue being key in Luck's rehab and recovery, even as was making positive progress through his program. So now, with Luck on IR and officially able to continue focusing solely on rehabbing and getting ready for the 2018 season, Ballard emphasized that the team does not fear any long-term effects for its franchise quarterback.
"You know, I've heard all kinds of rumors about 'career-ending' — that's not the case here. I've not got that from one doctor," Ballard said. "Career-ending is putting him out on the field before he's ready to play. That's where you should be concerned. We're doing everything we can as an organization to give Andrew a chance — and Andrew's doing everything he can to have a chance — to have a long-term career. And that's what he plans on doing, and that's what we plan on him doing."
The plan for Luck now is "strictly rehab," Ballard said, with no exploratory procedures in the works. Ballard said he's "optimistic that this (approach) will solve the problem," based off discussion with the doctors.
"I think they're going to take a little different approach and do some different strength and recovery efforts to try to get the soreness out," Ballard said.
"He was frustrated," Ballard continued, talking about Luck's reaction to the news his season was officially over. "I mean, he's a competitive guy. And not only is he a competitive guy, but he cares about his teammates, and he cares about this organization. And he knows the impact he has on Sunday. I mean, he's a difference maker; he's one of the top quarterbacks in this league. So he's frustrated. He's absolutely frustrated. But saying that, I think he's got great resolve, and I think — look, through the dark times there's gotta be a light, and I think a year of his body healing, getting the shoulder right, I think we're going to see a better Andrew down the line."