After Andrew Luck completed his shoulder surgery in early 2017, fans were left waiting for his return to practice with the team. He was notably absent during all of the summer program and even during training camp. A full year later, with a new coaching staff and new offensive scheme, the plan was to keep him as engaged in practice as he could without participating in the throwing portions of the program. Throughout much of the summer, this has been the case. Luck would participate with individual non-throwing drills with the quarterbacks, working on his drop-backs and meshes with the running backs, and would step away when that portion of the practice would end.
When Luck was suddenly absent from practice last week, there was some level of concern about whether the changes has some level of significance or pointed to any setbacks to his rehabilitation or timetable. After all, the Colts made it a point to mention that keeping Luck as involved as he could be to go through mental reps and be a part of the team was beneficial to his ability to be ready for the regular season and hit the ground running when he does participate in the throwing and team portions of practice.
Former Colts.com writer Kevin Bowen, currently with 1070 the Fan, has attended Colts practices and had a chance to get a front row view of the process Luck has gone through this year. He spoke with Big Joe from the Grady & Big Joe program on Thursday, May 31st and went into some detail about how Luck has been involved this season and his interpretation of the changes last week.
In terms of his actual participation in practices this summer, Bowen explained:
“This year he was taking a part in about the first 15-20 minutes of about a little over 90 minute practice. Usually he is out there during stretching, individual periods where quarterbacks are just kind of handing the ball off to running backs, working on their own footwork, drop-backs, all that stuff. Once team periods start, or even once the throwing portion of the individual period starts, basically routes against air thrown to wideouts, running backs, all that stuff that is when Luck would then go inside and continue the rest of his rehab.”
As it relates to his missing practice last week and the perception about him missing time, Bowen continued:
“Yesterday, he wasn’t out there at all. Which kind of goes against what the Colts said previously which is that they wanted him out there as much as possible just to get reacclimated to practice life in the NFL, being around your teammates, and – I don’t know – I feel like a quarterback being out there and witnessing live reps can be a bit beneficial to him especially in a new offense…”
This is the primary backdrop for some of the concerns that were mentioned in the media that became the focus of concerns about potential setbacks or the reasons behind changing Luck’s participation in practice. Bowen went on to discuss Frank Reich’s answers to questions from the media on these changes and what it means for Luck’s schedule:
“Frank Reich said after practice that they are shifting the times of Andrew Luck’s rehab. If he is doing something at one o’clock, maybe now he is doing that at ten o’clock. It is the same rehab activities it is just that that felt like maybe in a way that Luck was wasting time at practice just observing, purely watching.
He is having his rehab schedule altered a little bit, shifted time-wise, and again the expectation is that he will not throw – still has not thrown – and the expectation is that he will not throw in the final two weeks of this off-season program.”
As it relates to the emphasis that will continually be placed on Luck throwing a football — for good reason — Big Joe and Bowen went back and forth to clarify some things. They also discussed where Luck would go when he left the practice field and Bowen discussed his impressions on the relevance or importance of these changes to his practice schedule.
BJ – “When we talk about not throwing again, I think we go back to just a regular football, routes, doing that kind of stuff. But, he would be throwing weighted balls and the things he had done before.”
KB – “Correct.”
BJ – “When he goes in, does he go into the facility part or does he go into the closed barn where he could be doing other things?”
KB – “He went inside into their kind of makeshift, I assume, kind of medical room that they have now, training room and that is where he furthered his activity.
I don’t read to much into it, Joe, I don’t think it’s ‘oh my gosh, they are all of the sudden hiding Andrew Luck’ or he is taking a step back or he crashed his bike on the way home from the Indy 500, you know something just absurd like that. I just think that this is a little bit of a different way of going about things and they just kind of want to maximize his time whether that be in a meeting room or doing actual rehab stuff.
While it is clear that Kevin Bowen isn’t getting inside information regarding to Andrew Luck’s status, he has had a history of being close with the team and is certainly familiar with the organization. He has been able to witness the portions of practice that are open to the media all summer and has come away with the impression that any changes in the final two weeks of the summer program relating to Luck’s participation in the first 15-20 minutes of practice are likely nothing more than adjusting the approach to his rehabilitation schedule and not reflective of setbacks or causes for concern that his return to the field is in jeopardy.