Andrew Luck’s Health Could Shake Up Entire NFL Landscape

If you’ve been on any news website in the past 24 hours, you’ve seen a version of this headline: “Colts QB Andrew Luck Throws a Football.”

It’s bizarre that Luck simply tossing a pigskin is a top NFL storyline this offseason, but don’t think for a second that his health isn’t one of the factors that will heavily impact the NFL landscape in 2018.

With the AFC South being as competitive as it’s been in a decade, the Colts, who went 4-12 in 2017, desperately need their star QB back. A healthy Luck behind center could be the difference between a respectable playoff run or Indianapolis’ continued descent as a bottom-dweller in the NFL.

Luck, who hasn’t taken a regular-season snap since Week 17 of the 2016 season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, is as healthy as he’s been in years and trying to regain the form that he had when led Indianapolis to three straight playoff berths from 2012-’14.

On Tuesday, Luck spoke more in-depth about his rehab process and threw a football in front of the media for the first time since last October.

“My goal was to be able to throw as much as I do in like a game week,” Luck told reporters. “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I practice, and then Sunday, let it loose, no count, nothing. You know, you’ve got to go and let it go. That’s what I’m preparing for.”

New Colts head coach Frank Reich has kept a close eye on Luck during the QB’s rehab.

“I’ve been seeing every workout,” Reich told ESPN. “I spend a lot of time with all our players, but obviously during Andrew’s rehab process I try to be out there for as many workouts as I can no matter when that is. Not only the throwing portion of them, (but) when he’s throwing the weighted balls and then phasing into what you saw (Tuesday).

“It’s part of getting to know your guys and seeing the process and having confidence in it.”

While Luck has thrown an NFL regulation-size football during some of his workouts, he was tossing a college-size Wilson TDS 1205 on Tuesday.

“The reason I’m using a little smaller football is it puts less stress,” Luck revealed. “And throwing weighted balls. And the difference between throwing a round ball and a football is how it comes off your hand and often things like that.”In addition to his torn labrum, the three-time Pro Bowler has also suffered a concussion and lacerated kidney during his six-year NFL career. Because of his injury history, Luck has a unique perspective on the mindset that’s required for a successful return to Indianapolis’ lineup.

“You can’t just take a piece off and put a new piece on and go around,” Luck said. “I believe in my bones if I stay patient and ask the right questions and communicate with everybody about my body that slowly, but surely, I can make myself do anything. That’s sort of been MO.”

And when should we expect for Luck to be 100%?

“My goal is to be ready for training camp,” Luck said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing 100 balls every day, six days in a row. There’s going to be a plan. Frank and I have really, really good conversations and we’ll continue to have great conversations.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay, who received backlash for the organization’s handling of Luck’s shoulder injury in 2017, expects his QB to be ready for Indy’s Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Irsay also believes that Luck’s current rehab program could serve as the foundation for his future fitness regimen.

“I mean really, it’s probably going to be the way he’s going to be doing it for the next years to come,” Irsay said. “I think there’s not going to be really any huge adjustment from this point going forward. We think he can play a long time.

“Interestingly enough, some of the guys that have worked with him have said that he’s special. Just body fat ratio to muscle (is) almost incomparable except LeBron James and maybe a couple other guys that some of these guys that have worked with him have said. And they’ve said, ‘Hey, he can play probably beyond his 40s.’’’

If Luck returns with a physique and stamina that’s anything similar to someone like LeBron James, it could mark the start of a special season from the quarterback.