The NFL regular season is just four weeks away, and the Indianapolis Colts say Andrew Luck may or may not be playing.
Luck has been on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list all training camp as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
With training camp and preseason underway, his status has mostly been a mystery as he hasn’t been playing or training and hasn’t addressed the media.
On Sunday, however, Colts owner Jim Irsay addressed the media and gave an update of sorts about Luck’s injury, saying he’s throwing – but not all the way – and will be ready for the start of the season – but maybe not Week 1.
“I can’t say that unequivocally he’ll be ready for the Ram game, but I can say I feel very confident that he’ll be ready to start the season,” Irsay told reporters (via Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star). “Now that may not be the Ram game, but to start the season, yes.”
The statement is a bit confusing, as the Los Angeles Rams are the Colts’ Week 1 opponent.
Irsay added (via ESPN’s Mike Wells): “I don’t want to act that it is a foregone conclusion that he’s not going to be starting out there [against the Rams]. I mean, he could but also could not. We don’t see an extended delay, but we’re not going to put a timetable on it.”
Irsay said that Luck is throwing again, but not all the way because they’ve put restrictions on how hard he can throw.
“I have and I haven’t,” Irsay said of seeing Luck throw. “Because like I said, I don’t think we’ve let him throw like he can throw. We just won’t, yet. Not until the doctor dictates that it’s time for him to start letting it go a little bit more.”
According to Wells, Colts GM Chris Ballard offered a similar assessment of the entire situation, saying Luck isn’t throwing as hard as he can yet, and they’re not entirely sure when he’ll be back to his normal self.
“It’s a progression where he’s not throwing the football as strong as he wants to because we won’t let him,” Ballard said. “He can throw it a lot stronger than he’s throwing it.
“This is our future that’s 10, 12, 14 years – who knows? We will not deviate from being disciplined in our process on how the doctors feel and how Andrew feels. He said it best to me. He said, ‘Jim, I know I’m going to be an even better quarterback than I’ve ever been before. I just don’t know when.’ That could be Sept. 10. It could be Sept. 20.”
While it’s not unusual for teams to be uncertain of exactly when exactly a player will return from injury and to be cautious, the situation is somewhat concerning. Nearly nine months since surgery, Luck isn’t throwing as hard as he can, and he hasn’t gone through game action since the 2016 season ended.
As the Colts mentioned, they want to protect their investment – in 2016, they gave Luck a five-year, $140 million contract that included $89 million guaranteed. It’s smart to be careful, though it’s concerning that, according to Irsay, Luck hurt his shoulder in 2015 and didn’t get surgery until January 2017 after the injury lingered.
It would also be more reassuring if the Colts had a better idea of when Luck will be able to play. Even if he recovers fully by Week 1, he’ll have missed training camp and preseason. There will be rust to shake off, and he won’t have any in-game throwing experience on a surgically repaired shoulder.
Luck, when healthy, has looked every bit like a franchise quarterback than can take the Colts from a mediocre outfit to a playoff team. Currently, the question is when and if he’ll be healthy to do so.