Andrew Luck: ‘Nothing’s holding me back physically’

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 20: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on before a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 20, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Reporting day was fast approaching and general manager Chris Ballard was offering a training camp assessment of his latest edition of the Indianapolis Colts.

Invariably, the topic circled back to Andrew Luck, the quarterback he inherited but the quarterback he had yet to see actually, you know, play quarterback. Luck was in the final phase of his amped-up offseason throwing regimen – he returned to the West Coast after the Colts’ offseason workouts ended in mid-June – and everyone was curious for an update.

“I still think we’ll get questions until he lines up and plays again, and plays high-level football again,’’ Ballard said. “I can just see the panic the first time he throws an interception.

“It’s just part of what we do. He understands it. He gets it.’’

Hit the fast-forward button and we’re three weeks into Luck’s Return Season.

Even though we all anticipated the team’s $140 million quarterback needing time – a month? Six weeks? – to regain his form after missing 20 months, those questions alluded to by Ballard have cropped up.

Has Luck regained the zip on his fastball?

If not, is his on-going comeback limiting the game-planning and play-calling ability of Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni?

Through three games, Luck has been very un-Luck-line. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per attempt, 31st in the NFL, and 7.8 yards per completion, 32nd in a 32-team league. Each is a career low. His 4.1 per-attempt average Sunday at Philadelphia was the lowest of his 73-game career. Known for routinely pushing the football down the field in the passing game, he’s had only five completions of at least 20 yards.

Luck continually insists there’s work to be done and progress to be realized.

“I think I’ll always be a work in progress,’’ he said Wednesday, “and I’d like to think that every day I can become a better thrower. We always have to get better.’’

Yet he also insists wherever he is on his personal growth chart is more than adequate for him to play his position at a high level.

“I know I’m at a level where I can make all the throws,’’ he said, “and I feel confident that I’m going out there with my full arsenal, if that makes sense.

“I don’t think anything is physically holding me back.’’

So, you have the necessary velocity and arm strength to fit a pass into tight coverage?

“Yeah, absolutely I do,’’ he said. “Again, we can always get better.

“I don’t think I’m anywhere near scratching the surface of realizing my full potential.’’

In the NFL, quarterbacks generally receive too much credit in victories and too much blame in defeats. It’s worth pointing out even though Luck hasn’t been on top of his game the first three weeks, he’s gotten the Colts to the doorstep of being 3-0.

They were driving for the go-ahead touchdown against Cincinnati in the opener when tight end Jack Doyle lost a fumble at the Bengals 15-yard line with 40 seconds remaining and the Colts trailing 27-23. And against the Eagles, the Colts reached the Philly 4 only to be turned away by Derek Barnett’s fourth-and-3 sack of Luck.

“Andrew is playing good football,’’ Reich said. “He made a lot of plays in (the Philly) game that really gave us a chance to win. So I am happy with the way he’s playing.’’

The focus on Luck intensified when Reich turned to backup Jacoby Brissett, not Luck, on a Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the Eagles game. The offense was at its own 46 and Reich believed Brissett offered the best option in getting the football into the Eagles’ end zone.

Luck said after the game he was on board with the decision and noted Brissett possessed a strong arm.

Wednesday, he reiterated he feels good about his arm strength.

“Yeah, I do. I do. I really do actually,’’ Luck said. “I really feel like I can make those throws and get the ball where it needs to be.’’

As for the external scrutiny Ballard predicted in late July that would undoubtedly follow Luck?

“I honestly don’t (pay attention to it),’’ Luck said, “so I’m not aware if there’s any scrutiny or not. I think we as an offense put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well. If you look back at the previous game, there were areas we did not do well. The red zone sticks out in my mind more than anything else.’’

It was clear Luck was in no mood to second-guess the first three weeks of the season. Perhaps if he and his receivers had connected on a few of the deeper throws or critical red-zone passes, we might not be having this discussion in the first place.

“Yeah, maybe,’’ he said. “For you guys, gotta write about something, gotta talk about something. We can all play Monday morning quarterback and look back.

“Hindsight’s 20/20 and certainly maybe if you hit a couple . . . but that’s not a conversation with us.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.