Indianapolis Colts fans have been forced to wait an entire year for definitive word that their franchise quarterback is ready to return to the football field and play at a high level. In what has been one of the most excruciating and frustrating series of events since Colts faithful were forced to watch Peyton Manning miss the entire 2011 season only to be summarily cut in order to draft Andrew Luck, there are still plenty of questions.
Like it or not, it is very clear that Chris Ballard, Andrew Luck, and everyone involved with the rehabilitation and throwing program has no intention of saying a damn word until they feel the time is right. The motivations behind that policy are partially understandable and partially infuriating. For fans, it seems like it shouldn’t make any difference to provide everyone with a steady stream of updates. Why keep people in the dark?
For the team and for Luck, there are plenty of reasons to avoid the likely distractions associated with the feeding frenzy that would result from any announcement that Luck is ready to go. In what is a very slow time period for members of local media who cover the Colts, any blood in the water would force Colts staff to ward off all kinds of requests for information, requests for press conferences, and requests for access to Andrew Luck. The team is currently far more concerned with bringing in a full coaching staff and vigorously attacking the final stages of the scouting and draft planning process than they are about answering questions whose answers won’t ultimately matter until the 2018 season starts 7 months from now.
Throw in that the NFL has a long history of keeping most injury-related information close to the vest, for strategic reasons and privacy reasons (or player preference), and it makes even more sense. At this time, there is a whole lot of uncertainty around what the Indianapolis Colts would or could do, or what they might want to do, with the third overall pick in the upcoming draft. The less teams officially know about what is going on in Indianapolis, the better.
The most recent announcement on Luck’s progress has created additional confusion. After all, months ago he started throwing a football publicly before shutting everything down and going on a mysterious trip to the Netherlands for rehabilitation. The expectation from fans is that, unless something bad has happened since his return, he should be well into his throwing program and making noteworthy progress. It is understandable, then, that the fan base would be concerned when it was reported on January 30th that Luck was near his return to throwing and would be traveling to Los Angeles to work with throwing and strength specialists Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.
The interpretation from this announcement was that Luck had not yet been throwing a football and was only just now beginning to get into his throwing program. If that was the case, there was no way to have any confidence that Luck’s trip to the Netherlands was successful and no way to predict whether or not he would require another surgery. Even Dr. David Chao wrote a story on the 30th explaining that it would take months — maybe up to three months — to go from the start of a throwing program to knowing for sure whether Luck is back to 100% and ready to return to the football field or will require some other type of surgical scope or procedure to clean things up in his throwing shoulder.
More concerning is the sound of things when a quarterback as talented as Andrew Luck is going across country to meet with throwing coaches and to work on throwing mechanics. For some, it sounds like another setback or another discouraging development in his attempted return to football.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, this news is one of the most positive updates Colts fans could hope to hear. If Luck is traveling to Los Angeles to work with House and Dedeaux, he is going to work specifically on throwing a football and doing so at a very high level. Luck’s lengthy rehabilitation and physical therapy process is coming to its end.
While I am obviously not a doctor and while my thoughts on the matter are entirely speculative, I’m going to challenge Dr. Chao on his worst case scenario timetable. While the true worst case scenario is that Luck would suffer another setback or require another surgery, I think the timeline for a healthy return to throwing a football in Los Angeles is overly pessimistic.
The process with Luck to this point has certainly been outside the norm or the typical expectation. Every precaution has been taken to protect Luck’s long-term future. When he was experiencing pain or discomfort that left him uncertain, the choice was to shut him down and revisit the rehabilitation and physical therapy phases of the process. When he returned to throwing in early October he still looked like a player who was in the process of regaining his strength and not back to his playing weight.
This photo is following the Colts game against the San Francisco 49ers on October 8, 2017.
This photo is from the final game of the season on December 31st, at home against the Houston Texans.
Suffice to say, Andrew Luck is already months into a carefully planned and executed rehabilitation and strengthening program. He has gone from well underweight and out of shape in spring of 2017 to as well defined as he has been in his football career. Everything about this process indicates that Luck will only return to throwing the football when he feels he is completely ready to start doing so at a high level. No risks of a potential setback are on the table.
Luck, his doctors, and the Colts medical team still have months to get this right and they could have easily chosen to go in to clean up the shoulder with a scope or perform another surgery. None of the decisions that have led Luck to this point have been made haphazardly. Each decision has been made carefully, deliberately, and with no focus greater than the long-term health and success of Andrew Luck’s career as an NFL quarterback.
So what do these throwing coaches do? Why should this news be viewed positively instead of as another reason to have doubts about Luck’s future?
For one thing, numerous NFL quarterbacks have traveled to visit the duo in Los Angeles. The biggest name is Tom Brady but the list includes Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Kevin Bowen conducted his own research to find out more about what these throwing coaches do.
At 3DQB, the training center for House and Dedeaux, the process is much more extensive than just working on throwing fundamentals:
There is more to throwing a football than just mechanics. Every delivery must be properly timed and kinematically sequenced as well as be mechanically sound to be efficient. In football, there are many variables that effect timing, sequencing and mechanics of the throw, but there are scientific certainties that the body must realize and achieve in order to throw both efficiently and accurately.
By using the 4 legs of the performance table (biomechanics, mental/emotional, functional strength and nutrition/sleep), 3DQB works to create efficient Quarterbacks with concern to long-term health and maximum performance output.
For those who are familiar with performance cars or racing, think of the process of what Andrew Luck is going through as you would about putting a performance or racing vehicle on a dyno test machine (if you’re unfamiliar, follow the link). The work Luck will be doing isn’t just a “ramp up the throwing program” part of his recovery process. It will be about becoming a better passer, focusing on mechanics, relearning how to throw post-surgery if some things need to change, and could even lead to quicker and more efficient releases, improvements in accuracy, or a stronger downfield throw.
You don’t put performance vehicles on a dyno when you know they aren’t running right and still require a tune-up. You put your performance or racing vehicles on a dyno when you want to ramp it up and see how much you can get out of it. I have little doubt that Andrew Luck is fully conditioned, strengthened, and is comfortable with the strength and pain level (or absence of pain) in his shoulder or he wouldn’t be going to visit House and Dedeaux.
For a closer look at the kind of thing these throwing coaches do to help quarterbacks improve, take some Pepto and watch the following video. These guys are very well respected, work hard to challenge the best quarterbacks in the world, and getting them involved with Andrew Luck can and should only be viewed as a positive thing.
S1:E2 The Mental Game
For Tom Brady, football is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. This episode puts us inside Tom’s head, revealing just how cerebral football really is for him. Despite all of Tom’s preparation, the Patriots narrowly lose their fourth game, bringing their record to 2-2. But Tom also has a young family at home that wants his attention win or lose. He has no time to wallow in failure both for his family’s sake - and because there is another game just a week away.Posted by Tom vs Time on Sunday, January 28, 2018