Andrew Luck understands it will take time to prove his surgically repaired throwing shoulder is as good as he says it is.
First, he must pass a few more self-imposed tests.
As the Indianapolis Colts reported to training camp Wednesday, their incumbent quarterback sounded as eager and antsy as he did when he arrived as the highly touted No. 1 overall draft pick and hand-picked successor to Peyton Manning in 2012.
“I’m nervous. It will be interesting to step on the field again and practice and there will be some times that I’ll scratch my head and say what the heck did I just do? What the heck is going on?,” Luck said before later acknowledging one concern. “I don’t want to fumble the first snap is what I don’t want to do.”
There are plenty of reasons for angst.
Thursday’s opening practice in Westfield, Indiana, a northern suburb of Indianapolis, will be the first time Luck has practiced or played in front of fans since January 2017.
Many of the names on the roster have changed since he threw a regular-season pass and some veterans still have not been in a huddle with Luck.
First-year coach Frank Reich has installed another new offense, the fourth Luck has learned as he heads into his seventh pro season.
Luck has not taken a hit in 19 months, and everyone will be monitoring Luck to see if he can fully recover from the partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
The Colts don’t seem to be worried.
“When he practices, he’s full go. There are no restrictions,” Reich said. “The reps are all counted out, so it’s easy to do the math.”
The initial plan calls on Luck to mimic his regular-season routine, throwing three days and taking one off.
But the irregular camp schedule will look slightly different. For instance, Luck is expected to throw Thursday and Friday before sitting out Saturday and then returning Sunday when Indy holds its first night practice at the new training camp site, Grand Park Sports Campus.
“We’ll be in pads Sunday and we don’t want him to miss that,” Reich said.
Luck also will participate in live drills, which Reich describes as more physical than the Colts likely had in recent seasons. Reich replaces Chuck Pagano, who was fired just hours after last season’s finale after six seasons with the team.
Luck won’t be seen only at practice.
Reich intends to use Luck in preseason games, tentatively setting his debut for the Colts’ Aug. 9 opener at Seattle. General manager Chris Ballard hinted that could be the case last week.
The best news for Colts’ fans, though, might be the fact that the pain Luck played with for most of 2015 and 2016 and kept him out all of 2017 has subsided.
“I feel like I’m in a much better place. I’m the best I’ve felt in a long, long, time,” he said. “I’ve got work to do still, I’ve got things that I’m going to have to go out and prove to myself. But I feel a lot better.”
He’s been throwing since May and spent the time between minicamp and reporting day working out in California with a cadre of receivers including teammate Chester Rogers. Reich watched footage from the workouts and said he could see a steady, consistent progression.
But Luck knows workouts on college fields don’t necessarily translate to success on Sunday afternoons.
“I’ve got some work to do still and there is going to be a situation on the practice that I have not been in yet — like having to avoid a guy and playing at that little extra tempo, that speed,” he said. “So there are steps I still need to take. I’m not kidding myself, and with that comes the endurance, the ‘Oh, that’s how I’ve got to throw the out to T.Y. (Hilton) or that’s how it is over the middle to (Jack) Doyle.'”
The Colts are doing their part to keep Luck healthy.
They invested heavily in revamping the offensive line, drafting guard Quenton Nelson in the first round, guard Braden Smith in the second round, re-signing versatile veteran Jack Mewhort and adding veteran free agent Matt Slauson.
And Luck hopes that making the effort to avoid preventable hits keeps his comeback on track, too.
“I think I’d be a bit of a fool not to (change),” he said. “I have to learn how to protect myself and how to protect the team.”
Notes: Safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker and guard Jeremy Vujnovich — all starters last season — have been placed on the physically unable to perform list. Geathers had offseason knee surgery, Hooker tore the anterior and medial collateral ligaments in October and Vujnovich pulled his calf while working out on his own this summer. … Running back Robert Turbin said he “let his teammates down” by violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers. He will miss the first four regular-season games. … The Colts signed safety Shamarko Thomas and waived cornerback Juante Baldwin on Wednesday. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Thomas has played 60 games with the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers since 2013. Baldwin was an undrafted rookie.
More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP—NFL