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Colts General Manager Chris Ballard: Luck will pick up where he left off when he returns to practice

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

These hits are starting to be a real pain in my shoulder

If you’re a Colts fan you have to be sort of used to taking punches by now. In many respects, it somehow feels like the 2011 neck surgery and missed season for Peyton Manning started a nightmare that never fully finished. The 11 win seasons and annual playoff progression feels like it was so long ago at this point that it would be understandable to think that Andrew Luck is entering his tenth season in the NFL.

Similar to the nightmare that was the 2011 NFL season in Indianapolis, this year fans have been left in a state of limbo since before the NFL draft. We knew that Andrew Luck had surgery on his shoulder, and Jim Irsay made some unfortunate comments that created an expectation from the Colts fan base that Luck would be ready to start the regular season. Instead, the start of the season came and went, and fans have had to wait for weeks before Luck would would even start practicing — now with General Manager Chris Ballard and Head Coach Chuck Pagano repeating the narrative that there is no timetable for his return.

In many respects, the new narrative, the one that started over the summer, in training camp, and as Luck missed preseason games, was too little, too late. Fans already had accepted what they wanted to hear from Irsay and anything that came after it either made the team owner a liar or revealed the fact that something is seriously wrong with Luck that the team is not sharing with the public.

The reality is almost always somewhere in between all of that.

In reality, Irsay spoke as an uninformed team owner who more often speaks with emotion and in song lyrics than he does based upon scientific formulas and hard facts. Irsay wanted to believe that Luck would be ready for the season, he wanted to give confidence to his fans, hell he probably even wanted to put good vibes out there to will it to be true.

No matter the reasons or the motive, even if it was the “sinister” season ticket sales motive, his words simply should not have been the baseline or foundation upon which fans placed their confidence. It was way too soon after the surgery, even before any meaningful rehab had started, for ANYONE — let along someone who is not a doctor — to speak with any authority on the likelihood of his full return to football nor his timeline for it.

So, we have all been left to do something that none of us has liked doing since we were little kids. We don’t know when we’ll get there. “Are we there yet Mom? Are we there yet Dad?” Colts fans have been forced into the adult equivalent of the same scenario and the answer hasn’t changed. “Well... hooooow looong?”

“We’ll get there when we get there.”

Just as good news started to form over the last couple of weeks, and after Andrew Luck himself said that he could see the finish line, we hear that he has suffered a bit of a setback and has been experiencing some soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder. Upon the advice of his doctors, Andrew Luck and the team have decided to shutdown his participation throwing the football in practice and yet again — ARE WE THERE YET? — there is no official timetable for his return.

Chris Ballard offers some key information on Luck’s status

For those of you who have not had a chance to watch Chris Ballard’s press conference earlier today, please visit this link to Colts.com.

For those of you who don’t have time for silly links or for being re-directed somewhere else. Here are some important comments Ballard made in his press conference that are extremely important to the potential for Luck to return to the field in 2017.

First, in response to a question about how long Ballard expects for the throwing portion of Luck’s practice regimen to be “shut down,” Ballard said:

I don’t think it’ll be long. I don’t, but I don’t want to sit here and give you an exact date, then it doesn’t happen, then you’re going, ‘what was that guy talking about.’

Now, he made it very clear that no timeline will be given for his return and no projections will be made. He made it very clear that he would not make those comments because he has no interest in giving fans or the media a timeline and then having to explain why Luck didn’t meet it. As I wrote months ago,

Worrying is only natural for fans, so feel free to do so. Also, don’t expect much from Luck or the team until he actually is ready to go. There’s no way they will know specifically when he is ready until that time comes.

Nothing Ballard said today departs from this same idea. Fully healing from this kind of surgery is not something that you can simply time. The full nature of the surgery, the repair, the speed at which each individual heals, and the process each individual chooses to take during their recovery is different for everyone. The only thing we can assume right now is that any time Luck misses will only add to whatever time it would have taken for him to return to the field had he not started experiencing pain in his shoulder.

What I think is the best news and most positive statement that Ballard made during his whole press conference has to do with how this “shut down” will affect his progress. The biggest worry is losing the progress he made over the last couple of weeks and have to step back to the beginning. Ballard put those worries to rest when he said:

The good news is when he comes back, it’ll be right where we were at. He’s made great strides. We’ll continue to rehab. He’ll continue to rehab. We’re just going to shut down the throwing right now to get this thing calmed back down

Well, I suppose that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Where “were we at?” Some fans thought he still didn’t look right and were convinced that he wouldn’t play in 2017. Former Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said that he saw the videos of Luck throwing and he doesn’t think the he is even close to healthy.

While we can’t exactly know where “we were at,” we can take something from another comment that Ballard made during his press conference. Regarding Luck’s arm strength and progress, he said:

In terms of the rehab, it’s been going well. You’ve seen him throw. I’ve watched every session of him throwing, and it’s been going really well. His velocity’s good, his motion’s good, all of that’s coming along at a good rate.

Taken together, I get the impression from Ballard that he will miss some practice, most certainly this week, and that he has some soreness and inflammation from ramping up his throwing over the last couple of weeks. While it would be even better for the timeline on Lucks’ return to not experience inflammation and soreness, Ballard said that this isn’t entirely unexpected:

Yeah, part of the process. Soreness happens, and then to get it calmed down they’ll give cortisone shots for this.

He also stated that there is no immediate plan to place Luck on the injured reserve to clear up a roster spot at this time. It appears the team genuinely think that this is a minor and not entirely surprising setback and that they want to keep their focus on the long-term for Luck’s health.

Bonus Comments

The media who were in attendance utilized the opportunity to question Ballard to get a couple of other updates on injured players. Regarding Clayton Geathers, Ballard said:

We’re working through that right now. He will be back though, soon. Yeah, he will be back soon.

Also, regarding Robert Turbin’s injury and the likelihood that he will be able to return this season or will be placed on injured reserve, Ballard said:

We’re still determining that. We’ll have a decision here in the next day or two.


For Colts fans, we’re all still left asking, “Are we there yet?”