Irsay: Andrew Luck’s shoulder will be ‘completely healed’ for next season

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 20: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts is seen on the sidelines during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Amid the influx of free agents and the retention of selected players, one name stands above the rest when discussing the Indianapolis Colts’ off-season: Andrew Luck.

The franchise cornerstone and highest-paid player in NFL history – he’s the $140 million quarterback, remember? – underwent surgery in mid-January to address a lingering injury to his right shoulder.

Worry not, insisted owner Jim Irsay. While the Colts won’t hasten Luck’s return, they expect him to be ready for the start of the season.

“We are not going to be rushing him,’’ Irsay told Colts.com Monday during a break from the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. “We are going to make sure, obviously, that the shoulder has to be ready and the doctors are going to give full approval before he starts putting real reps on it.

“This is going to be a real benefit in the long run. We really feel that he’s going to be completely healed for the season and he’s going to have a great season.’’

Irsay added the Colts might carry an additional quarterback in training camp if they decide it’s prudent to ease Luck’s preseason workload. The other QBs on the roster are Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris.

The Colts open their off-season conditioning program April 17 with the organized team activity (OTA) portion set for May. It’s uncertain how much throwing Luck will be allowed to do before training camp opens in late July.

Luck has dealt with an unspecified injury to his right shoulder for the better part of the last two seasons. It’s believed he initially was injured in week 3 of 2015 at Tennessee and aggravated it at some point last season.

Luck appeared on the injury report each week last year with a variety of injuries: right shoulder, right elbow, right thumb, left ankle and a concussion. He suffered the concussion Nov. 20 against the Titans that kept him out of the Nov. 24 game against Pittsburgh. Of the team’s 48 practice reports, he was a full participant 24 times, limited 19 times and held out entirely on five occasions.

Despite the rash of injuries that limited his practice time, Luck pieced together an elite season. He passed for 4,240 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He set career highs in completion percentage (63.5) and yards per attempt (7.8).

Luck also has thrown a touchdown pass in 23 consecutive games, the NFL’s longest active streak.

“I don’t think people realized how much he had to work to get ready to play each week . . . it was very mentally draining to get ready,’’ Irsay said.

The surgery, he added, “went great. The labrum, the bicep (were) pristine. There was no problem there. Things could not have gone better, up to this point, from a medical standpoint. But we are going to be depending on our medical people and the doctors in how we pace him into things.’’

Luck attempted to downplay his physical well-being after the Colts closed last season with a 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Asked if fans should be concerned about his shoulder, he responded, “No, I do not think so.’’

He was more distressed over the Colts finishing 8-8 for a second straight season and missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.

“Disappointed in myself,’’ he said. “I feel like I could have done better and maybe have helped this team end with a different record, but the reality is we didn’t. There are certainly some games I feel like I could have played better and you go around the locker room and everybody is going to say that.

“Close the chapter on this season, this year of the Colts, and hopefully we can start a new one in better fashion.’’

That hinges on Luck making a full recovery in time for the season-opener in early September.