The Andrew Luck shoulder saga has been one of complete and total frustration for Colts fans. When he was healthy (and even when he wasn’t), Luck was one of the best quarterbacks in football. He nearly single-handily dragged a talent-poor roster all the way to an AFC Championship game. While the national media’s preference is to treat that game as a joke, in reality, simply getting there should be noted as a ridiculous achievement.
Saddled with a terrible coaching staff and very few playmakers outside of T.Y. Hilton and a fading Reggie Wayne, Andrew Luck through sheer force of will made his team a contender. Then the injury happened. That same competitive spirit that we love kept Luck playing when he should have been resting. His game was certainly impacted, but he was no less spectacular.
In 2016, Luck had another great year. He finished with 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns. But the damage to his shoulder was becoming problematic and in January 2017, he decided to undergo surgery. This you already know, unless you have been living under a rock.
From there, Colts fans have been trapped in a world with “no timeline” but a ton of endless optimism emanating from Colts’ headquarters. Personally, I am the kind of fan who always hopes for the best, and tries to temper that notion in my writing. So from day one, I wanted to believe the best case scenario for Luck. Obviously, that reality came and went. The Colts lost Luck for all of the 2017 season.
In retrospect, that might have been just what they needed for a couple of reasons. First, it allowed a truly poor roster to show itself, and in doing so, highlight Luck’s greatness. His absence from the field has made those at a national level forget how great he is, but it is undeniable when watching this roster flounder, that Luck was the force that made it go.
Secondly, it got the team out of the Pagano era and landed the Colts a new coaching staff and a high draft pick that Ballard leveraged in a trade to add more in the second round. As a bonus, Luck missed out on what might have been the worst of the offensive lines the Colts have fielded since the end of the Manning era. What he’ll have to start the season will likely be a line bolstered by draft picks and a defense that can pull its own weight, even if it isn’t ready to carry the team on its own.
But will Luck even be able to return at all? What exactly has he been doing all this time since he hasn’t even been throwing footballs? How can we expect that he will be improved if he isn’t even throwing real footballs yet?
The answer is in the program that Adam Dedeaux and Tom House have put together for Luck. At this point, just about everyone has heard that Luck has been throwing balls that are “heavier than footballs” since back in February.
Andrew Luck isn’t throwing football yet, but I’m told he’s throwing weighted balls heavier than footballs. More good news below https://t.co/UvgvW46vOG— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 21, 2018
While you may have heard that report, the image it conjured up in your head could vary greatly. Maybe you had no clue what that entailed. Does that simply mean Luck is working out with a medicine ball? What advantage is there in not using a regular football to throw?
To get an idea of just what exactly Tom House is using these weighted balls to do for Luck’s shoulder strength, it is worth your time to take 15 minutes and watch this video shared by Stephen Holder.
I get so many sarcastic and ignorant responses when I report on Andrew Luck not throwing regulation balls yet. Well I highly suggest you watch this piece someone sent me. The value of throwing weighted balls is amazing. I’d never seen this. Wow. https://t.co/CsRgLR8pMg— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) April 22, 2018
For those uninterested in watching it, it is the story of Steve Delabar, a minor league pitcher who worked his way back from an injury and ended up pitching in the major leagues because his fastball speed increased by several miles per hour through using the weighted ball training program designed by Tom House. That’s a pretty poor description, so it is definitely worth watching the video yourself.
One of the key points that House hits on when explaining why his method might be more effective than other weighted ball training has been in the past, was a finding that he made while studying tennis. He noticed that while tennis players use the same rotation and motion as is made when throwing the ball, they don’t experience shoulder injuries with anywhere near the same regularity as pitchers. The conclusion was that this was changed by using the same motion but holding the racket. The act of holding on actually changed the way the motion impacted the shoulder.
House states in the video that while the act of throwing the weighted ball works to strengthen the front of the shoulder, the holding of the ball through the process of a throwing motion strengthens the back of the shoulder. This is precisely what was meant when talking about Luck rehabbing in such a way as to build up the muscles around his shoulder. As a part of House’s program, Luck will have been doing both motions as he works to solidify and build the support muscles around his surgically repaired shoulder.
Since this video was made, House has become a quarterback guru and has been sought out by quarterbacks who are looking to tighten up their motion and improve on fundamentals. Luck sought the aid of House and Dedeaux to help him regain proper throwing motion after playing injured degraded it.
Simply using a method that has had great results doesn’t mean it will be effective for Luck. All bodies heal differently, and it would be foolish to pretend that Luck has experienced an ideal situation. We already know he tried to push to get back before he was ready. He said as much. Also, we have the video of him throwing from back in October which shows that he was ramping up his throwing in the hopes of getting back to help out his team.
It is clear that with the regular season still months away, the Colts are set on taking the slow track with Luck to make sure there are absolutely no setbacks for the 2018 season. Given the results that have come from this process of strengthening and improving under the guidance of Tom House and Adam Dedeaux, the possibility that we might see an Andrew Luck who is a better passer than we have yet seen is a very real one.
The other interesting question to ask is whether Rusty Jones, the Colts new Director of Sports Performance and legendary strength and conditioning coach, will consult with House and Dedeaux to keep Luck on a regular regimen of work with the weighted balls so as to keep him sharp throughout the season. Jones has been known for being on the cutting edge of sports science throughout his career, and building a program that keeps Luck in top shape will almost definitely be near the top of his to-do list.
Ultimately, we won’t know for a long time just what kind of shape Luck is really in. The reality is that even when he begins throwing, it won’t tell us much. We have already seen that he could throw. The real question to be answered is if he can throw at full strength and handle the workload without experiencing serious pain as a result. But with a better look at some of the parts of this process and the positive results it has yielded, it is tough not to be excited about how good Luck could be if things continue to trend the way they have been this off-season. If the best case happens, Colts fans have a lot of really good football to look forward to in the coming season.