Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will not practice the rest of the week due to soreness in repaired shoulder.
Clark Wade / IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are shutting down their $140 million quarterback, for now, placing Andrew Luck’s 2017 season in doubt and likely dashing whatever fading hopes this flawed football team has at making a run at the postseason.
The setback arrives ten months after Luck underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder and two weeks after he finally returned to the practice field. He recently underwent a cortisone shot to ease the soreness he’s been battling in recent weeks as his throwing routine has amped up, first-year General Manager Chris Ballard revealed on Wednesday. Luck practiced for the first time in 2017 on Oct. 4, and was heaving 40-yard passes with ease just seven days ago.
A return seemed imminent.
Now, nothing is guaranteed.
“It’s natural there’s going to be some pain and soreness when you’re rehabbing an injury,” Ballard explained. “And it’s been kinda coming along the whole time. (The soreness) is just one thing that hasn’t gone away. We’re going to shut it down and calm it down for a while.”
No, the Colts won’t place Luck on the injured reserve list – not now at least. The move would end his season, and Ballard isn’t ready to do that. The hope is the shoulder soreness will dissipate in the coming weeks and Luck can pick up his throwing routine right where he left off. Both Luck and coach Chuck Pagano have been adamant that Luck will play this season.
“No, nah,” Ballard said of moving Luck to IR. “Not at this time.”
But that certainly doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. The Colts, 2-4 after dropping Monday’s game in Tennessee, sit in last place in the AFC South. Probed for a potential timeline on when Luck might be able to return to practice, Ballard demurred. Like so much of this injury, it’s unclear.
“I don’t want to speculate, and I don’t want to put a timeline on that,” Ballard said. “But I don’t think it’ll be long.”
Read more on Andrew Luck’s injury:
Dr. Luga Podesta, a sports medicine and regenerative orthopedic specialist and former training camp medical consultant with the Cowboys and Saints, wasn’t alarmed by the news of Luck’s setback. He said the soreness Luck is dealing with is a fairly common occurrence in athletes who are recovering from labrum surgeries.
“Not surprised at all,” said Podesta, who did not personally treat Luck. “He’s got to develop those muscles again, and they’ve become deconditioned, in a way, during this time. When he starts to throw, and throw a lot, which he probably did (in the past few weeks), the muscles aren’t used to that. They’re just not strong like they used to be.”
Worth noting: It’s all but certain the Colts waited until Luck’s shoulder was completely healed before allowing him to practice. The soreness he’s experiencing from an increased throwing routine is a common byproduct of that. Podesta’s seen it before. He said that when he faced similar situations, he’d advise the team to keep the quarterback off the field for around 10 days before allowing him to practice again.
The good news for the Colts, Ballard noted, was that aside from the soreness, Luck’s rehabilitation has gone to plan. His velocity is improving, his throwing motion normal. Luck saw his first action against a live defense last week when he ran the Colts’ scout team offense for a few plays. The team’s defensive coordinator, Ted Monachino, said Luck made his unit “look silly” more than once.
Luck has practiced four times this season, twice before Week 5 and twice more before Week 6. He took a day off between each of the workouts.
And that’s when the soreness crept up, and Luck hasn’t been able to shake it. The end goal – the franchise quarterback being healthy enough to practice on a daily basis – remains out of sight, for now at least. It’s been a long, painful two years for the former No. 1 overall pick and three-time Pro Bowler. This injury originated in the third game of the 2015 season.
And it could cost Luck his entire 2017 season.
“Understand this,” Ballard said, “every player is different, every rehab is different, every surgery is different. That’s why we’ve never put a timeline on this. Every guy is different. The good news is Andrew is very in-tuned with his body and he’s being honest about what’s going on, and that’s what we want, that’s what we need. I don’t think anybody in this room can question Andrew Luck’s toughness and willingness to play with pain.
“We wanna get to a point where he can practice every day, and his long term success is what we’re looking for,” Ballard continued. “Much like with any player, that’s what’s important to us.”
Asked if the Colts are sure the time off with alleviate the soreness in Luck’s shoulder when – and if – he returns to practice, Ballard said this: “That’s what we’re hopeful for.”
But you can never truly know, Podesta said. Luck, he speculated, will continue to rehab while he misses practice, but likely won’t be throwing the football.
“This not a death sentence,” Podesta said. “It’s probably a minor setback in terms of strengthening. When they repair the labrum, you have to really develop all the muscles around it. You go a little bit, have a little setback, go a little bit, make some progress, then make some more progress.”
For now, Luck’s hit a setback. Progress will have to wait. So will his return.