It’s been a while, but think back to the Colts’ road game against the Tennessee Titans in 2015. The Colts won 35-33 in thrilling come-from-behind fashion, but the thing that really got fans talking wasn’t the win but was the apparent injury to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Colts tried to downplay the issue, but Luck wound up missing the next two games with a shoulder injury. It turns out the issue was far bigger than the team let on, and today Luck finally confirmed that the injury that required surgery this offseason originally happened in that week three game against the Titans in 2015.
“It originally occurred a couple years ago against the Tennessee Titans down there,” Luck said today, “and we sort of sat down after that year and felt like rehab was the way to go and I think that was the absolute correct decision. We did some awesome things and then this year happened, obviously, and what transpired through this year, and sat down after this year and decided that, you know what, maybe it was time to do surgery on it.”
So what Luck confirmed was what pretty much everyone already knew and suspected: that his shoulder injury originated in that week three game of the 2015 season. Luck did miss two games with the injury at the time, but then returned. The Colts tried to downplay the issue, but it seemed clear that he was still bothered by it. Then last offseason, he rehabbed the shoulder to the point he could play well, but it seems playing on it didn’t help much.
“Rest is the wrong word,” Luck explained. “Rest invokes a connotation of sitting on your butt doing nothing for it. [We had a] very intense, precise rehab plan that I went through last offseason that got me to the point that really could play good football. And certain things happen in games that you cannot control, and sort of re-aggravations, and decided at the end of this year with the information that we sort of compiled that this was the best way moving forward. And I have no regrets on either of those decisions.”
What’s really remarkable is the kind of season Luck was able to have in 2016 while playing with an injured shoulder. He was tremendous, starting 15 games and completing 63.5% of his passes for 4,240 yards (7.8 yards per attempt), 31 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions for a passer rating of 96.4, while he also rushed for 341 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per rush. And all of that was while playing hurt.
“There were times when, yeah, you play through pain. There were times when it felt great,” Luck said. “So playing through pain, the reality is too that everybody plays through pain in the NFL. That’s the truth, you play through pain. I know I’ve played through pain every year, this was just a little different beast from the standpoint of, you guys know, my practice schedule was different and altered, and certainly that made things a little more difficult from a preparation standpoint and there were a couple of times during the year where I would get hit in an awkward position, an awkward way, and it wouldn’t feel great and it would be a taxing effort to get ready for the next week and the next week, and didn’t feel like I could go through that and be productive as a quarterback, specifically with my right shoulder.”
Luck routinely was limited in at least one practice per week in the regular season a year ago, and the Colts maintained that it was simply to keep him fresh. But as most suspected, there was indeed something more going on there: Luck was still dealing with the effects of a shoulder injury suffered the year before, and he was playing through pain. So this offseason, he had a choice to make - and he choose to undergo surgery.
“It was my decision, ultimately, yeah. Absolutely my decision,” Luck confirmed. “And the team gave me all the resources I needed, that I felt like I needed, to make the best decision. And we sat down after the year with all our guys in thsi building and talked, and then went out and got a lot of really good opinions from a lot of really good doctors around the country, and then at the end of the day I never felt like anybody else was trying to make the decision for me. I made this decision with what I felt like was the best information that we could all find, that I could find, and I have no regrets about going to get surgery. Obviously there’s always the uncertainty, like anything, but I fully trust that when the doctors say I’m 100% that I’ll be 100% no questions asked.”
As for when he’ll be back? Luck wouldn’t disclose a timeline, echoing the pattern set by GM Chris Ballard and head coach Chuck Pagano this offseason. Luck said that it’s a goal to get back by training camp but that he’s not too concerned with specific dates right now. Instead, he has full trust in the doctors and staff helping him rehab. He did say, however, that the goal and expectation is that he’ll play a full 2017 season, so it seems he too thinks he’ll be back at least by the start of the regular season. And considering the fact that he’s been playing on an injured shoulder for two years and playing through pain (and, in 2016, playing very well too!), it will be interesting to see just how much better he can be when fully healthy.