1-year anniversary of going on IR worth celebrating for Colts’ Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – One year ago today, a shudder went through the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

First-year general manager Chris Ballard halted mounting speculation and ended the suspense hovering over the most irreplaceable player on his roster.

“We’re going to put Andrew on IR,’’ he said.

The decision came two weeks after the Indianapolis Colts shut down their $140 million quarterback for the season. Instead of Andrew Luck’s surgically-repaired right shoulder responding favorably to limited throwing in practice in mid-October, there was pain, swelling. When a cortisone shot didn’t resolve the issue, the injured reserve list was the only remaining option.

“We think for the long-term interest of Andrew,’’ Ballard said, “this is the best course of action. I’ve heard all kinds of rumors about career ending. That’s not the case here. I’ve not got that from one doctor.’’

Luck offered optimism in late December, insisting he didn’t consider the 2018 season “being in jeopardy at all. I do not think I need another surgery. I believe in the process that I’m in right now. I plan on being ready for everything, everything official, offseason, NFL schedule.

“I plan on being ready.’’

Fast forward to today: Happy anniversary.

Twelve months after seeing his sixth NFL season end and roughly 22 months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Andrew Luck is back at it.

It’s not hyperbole to insist he’s never has been better.

As the Colts enjoy some R&R during their bye week, it’s worth noting they’re once again following the lead of their franchise QB. Some interesting stats compiled on Luck’s Comeback Tour that might result in him being named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year:

  • 23 touchdowns, second in NFL to Patrick Mahomes’ 26. He’s on pace for 46, which would tie Drew Brees for the 6th-most in NFL history.
  • 342 attempts, tied for most in the league. It’s unlikely he’ll continue that pace, but if he does, he’ll threaten Peyton Manning’s team record (679).
  • 225 completions, 2nd-most in the NFL. Manning set the team record with 450 in 2010, so Luck’s halfway there.
  • 65.8 completion percentage. That’s a career best.
  • A franchise-record 62 pass attempts in the overtime loss to Houston followed by 59 in the loss to the New York Jets. That’s the 2nd-most attempts in consecutive games in NFL history and ended, once and for all, any concerns regarding the strength and stamina of Luck’s right shoulder.

So many questions 12 months ago. All have been answered.

But as much as normalcy has returned for Luck and the Colts, it wasn’t a given.

“Yeah, there were one or two moments where I wondered if, ‘Am I ever going to be able to do this again?’’’ Luck admitted during training camp.

Doubt was fueled by the pain and swelling 13 months ago. Being placed on IR further separated him from teammates. He was attentive and interactive in meetings and on game day, but at some point considered his situation a distraction.

Today became an anniversary worth celebrating only after extended rehab with a personal trainer in the Netherlands and with throwing gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on the West Coast.

And only after a calculated, graduated regimen with the Colts once the offseason program began in April. Luck didn’t throw in front of the media until June 12, and then it was limited and with a Wilson Tds 1205, a football used at the high school level that’s smaller than the NFL version.

The overriding question: would Luck be ready for the Sept. 9 opener against Cincinnati?

“Absolutely,’’ he said.

Knock on wood?

“No knock on wood,’’ Luck replied without hesitation. “I’ll be playing. I believe it in my bones.’’

He was on the Grand Park practice field in Westfield when training camp opened July 26.

He returned to the playing field for the first time in 585 days when he took 19 snaps in the preseason opener at Seattle.

He appeared in a regular-season game for the first time in 616 days Sept. 9 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Luck has been noticeably upbeat since players reported for camp.

“I think as you guys know, by nature I am a private guy and I think it’s a little awkward for me to share things that I don’t think need to be shared,’’ he said. “But I do know this: I am super-stoked about how I feel today. It’s the best I’ve felt in a long, long time.

“I can assure you this, no one is as excited as I am and no one cares more about it than I do.’’

As Luck considered his return against the Bengals, he was asked if it felt like his comeback had come full circle.

“I hesitate to say comeback has come full circle,’’ he said, “I just want to go out and play football.’’

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