Andrew Luck prepares for training camp, says competitive edge kept him from 2017 return

Andrew Luck speaking to the media on April 9, 2018.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As it turns out, the excruciatingly-slow process aimed at returning the Indianapolis Colts’ most indispensable employee to the playing field – let’s call it Rehab 2.0 – very likely is the result of that employee mucking it up the first time.

Blame the need for a second comeback from January 2017 surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Andrew Luck’s steadfast commitment to “being there’’ for his teammates.

“I put a lot of my self-worth in being available for this team and being the best I could for this team,’’ he said Monday. “That maybe is not the healthiest thing in the world to do.’’

In his first meeting with the local media in more than three months as the Colts opened their offseason program, Luck looked the part of NFL quarterback. He was upbeat and optimistic. He was at his fighting weight, a fit 237 pounds.

But Luck did virtually nothing to move the needle and ease the anxieties of a fan base longing for something to indicate he’s this close to returning to the practice field. The overriding goal is for him to be throwing at the start of training camp in early August “without a governor on,’’ but his current throwing regimen still involves tossing around weighted balls and smaller footballs.

There’s a good chance he’ll do very little throwing during the team’s 10-week offseason program.

The true revelation from Monday dealt more with why Luck is steadfastly sticking to the step-by-step-by-step process of re-establishing himself as an upper-echelon NFL player. That process has included a November trip to the Netherlands to work with a personal trainer and, most recently, an extended stay on the West Coast while working with throwing gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.

It has yet to see Luck pick up a regulation football and let ‘er rip, even though that temptation is strong.

“Yes, it is,’’ he admitted. “It is tough. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is I’m quite impatient as a person, and it’s gotten me into places – looking back at the rehab – that maybe I shouldn’t have been in the first place.

“I don’t want to repeat those missteps. I cannot skip steps. I very, very strongly believe that.

“Some things just take time. I’ve learned that. When I do get the urge to do something a little silly, I talk to myself and say, ‘It’s not worth it right now.’’’

Luck declined to offer specifics and how he might have mishandled his previous rehab, but it was clear those thoughts hold a prominent place in his mind. More than that, he seemed to indicate he could have – should have – handled the injury to his right shoulder differently.

For a quick refresher, Luck first injured his shoulder Sept. 27, 2015 in a week-3 meeting with the Tennessee Titans. He would miss two games with the injury, then the final seven games with a lacerated kidney. In 2016, Luck missed only one game with a concussion, but the shoulder injury required constant treatment and severely cut into his weekly availability for practice.

The January 2017 surgery was deemed the best option moving forward, and the best-case scenario from the ensuing rehab was Luck to be ready for the start of the season, or mid-September.

That clearly never materialized. He resumed light throwing July 24, was moved from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster Sept. 2 and participated in four controlled practice sessions in October. However, Luck’s shoulder responded to the increased workload with swelling and soreness. When a cortisone shot didn’t alleviate the issue, the team placed him on the injured reserve list.

In retrospect, Luck shoulders much of the blame for the lost season, no pun intended. As the season unfolded and the losses mounted, his competitive nature apparently convinced him to skip steps, or at the very least not give each step its proper respect.

“There are certain things that I wish I had handled differently,’’ Luck said. “Try to make sure I’ve learned from that and move forward. If it sounds like I’m saying it’s my fault, I’m not going to argue with you on it, but I’m also not whipping myself across my back for anything I’ve done.

“I think I pushed a little too hard on certain things and didn’t give the requisite amount of time for certain things to happen. Your body, as I’m learning, will tell you ‘No’ in certain ways and you’ve got to listen to it.

“You can’t force things to happen. I think I convinced myself I could force things to happen, and I paid for it.’’

Luck believes the past is a great teacher. That’s why he’s sticking to the process, taking it one step at a time, wearing out kid’s-sized footballs before reaching for the real deal.

He admitted he’s “not a perfect-feeling athlete right now by any means. There’s still a focus on me to make sure that I can feel really, really good and then be unbreakable.

“I don’t want to put myself in a situation where this happens again and I have to go through the same thing again and again.’’

Luck reiterated his stance he’ll emerge from his rehab better than ever.

“I’m very, very confident and very, very optimistic that I’m going to be absolutely fine and come back better than I was,’’ he said. “I think I’ll be a better quarterback, a better teammate, a better person. I’m very confident.’’

However, Luck and the team were similarly confident and optimistic heading into last season that he would be available. Why should the fan base buy in this time?

“Certainly I understand (the skepticism),’’ he said. “I’ve been a fan and watched teams as a kid growing up and didn’t understand why someone wasn’t out there or where they were or why they couldn’t give me more information.

“I appreciate (the fans’) patience. There’s a process. I believe in it. I guess there’s not much more to say on it.’’

Why is Luck so certain he’ll make a full recovery this time?

“Because progress has been my guiding light and I’ve just made progress,’’ he said. “That’s all I’ve done over the past couple of months, three or four months. I feel it every week, every day.

“If I wasn’t making progress, it would freak me out . . . but I am. I wish I could push a fast-forward button on it and skip steps, but I know that’s totally unrealistic and at the end of the day wouldn’t be good.

“I’m feeling better. That’s what I trust, and I trust in myself.’’