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Jim Irsay: Odds against Andrew Luck starting Colts’ opener against Rams

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jim Irsay all but answered the only question that mattered as his Indianapolis Colts ended their preseason Thursday night and took aim on their Sept. 10 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

Will his most indispensible player – quarterback Andrew Luck – be under center?

“The odds are most likely he probably won’t open up against the Rams,’’ Irsay acknowledged after the Colts’ posted a 7-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. “But let me be clear about it: in our own minds, it’s something we haven’t ruled out.

“We’re going to see where he’s at. It would be awesome.’’

The first step in that longest of long shots becoming a reality must be taken by 4 p.m. Saturday when rosters are cut to 53. Luck must be moved from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and placed on the active roster.

During an appearance on the team’s pre-game radio show, general manager Chris Ballard said “all indications are we’re going to take Andrew off PUP.’’

Even then, it’s hard to imagine Luck being under center against the Rams. He hasn’t practiced since late December and apparently still is in rehab mode following January surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. While on PUP, Luck has been prohibited from working or practicing with his teammates.

The Colts have only four practices before heading to the West Coast and facing the Rams.

Irsay met with reporters outside the Colts’ locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium and spent most of his time stressing every Luck-related decision will be made with Luck’s long-term health in mind and insisting there have been no setbacks during his quarterback’s eight-month rehab.

“I can tell you completely, honestly, openly, directly, there has been absolutely nothing that’s been surprising,’’ Irsay said. “The process that’s unfolded since the labrum surgery occurred has been fine.

“No setbacks. Everything is going well. It’s just a question of each individual’s different. When do they feel like they’re ready.’’

Irsay and Luck have had numerous discussions since the labrum surgery, and one topic has been front and center: Luck’s long-term status with the team. In June 2016, Irsay signed Luck to an extension through 2021 that at the time made him the NFL’s highest-paid player at $140 million.

“As the owner of the football team, Andrew and I have had multiple conversations,’’ Irsay said. “And let me be very clear about this: He will take the field when he is 100 percent ready to go. OK? This is for the next 12, 14 years.’’

Part of that return-to-the-field readiness involves Luck’s mental makeup. Does he have complete faith in the repaired shoulder?

“A great golfer once said the biggest battle you have is the four-inch field between your ears,’’ Irsay said. “It’s something you really have to get your head around it and feel good about it in every way, shape or form as you go forward.

“He’s doing well. He’s on schedule.’’

Will he play against the Rams?

“Man, I hope so. I hope so,’’ Irsay said.

But you don’t know?

“I don’t know,’’ he replied.

Luck has been adamant with his boss during their meetings that he’ll return better than before. That’s quite a statement considering Luck is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes in 2014.

“From when him and I have talked,’’ Irsay shared, “it has been ‘Mr. Irsay, let me be clear. When I come back I’m going to be the best football player that I have ever been. I can promise you that. It’s just that I don’t know exactly when that date’s going to be.’

“But that’s the type of confidence that he has. He really feels good about getting this thing fixed and going forward.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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