As Colts head into OTAs, focus is on Andrew Luck (out), Chad Kelly (in)


Chad Kelly on 5-21-2019

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As the Indianapolis Colts’ offseason work amped up Tuesday, much of the discussion centered on a pair of quarterbacks.

One who didn’t participate. That would be Andrew Luck.

And one who did. That would be Chad Kelly.

Luck, the driving force behind an entire franchise, was a no show as the Colts went through the first of 10 practices in the OTA (organized team activities) phase of the offseason.

Blame a balky calf that recently flared up.

“A little tweak, a little strain,’’ coach Frank Reich said Tuesday afternoon. “My whole mode and our whole mode is during this session just to be real conservative with guys.

“The main thing is to get to camp at full strength.’’

Although there are no guarantees, Reich is confident Luck will be able to join workouts at some point before the team breaks for the summer following the June 11-3 mandatory minicamp.

“Where we’re at right now is play it conservative this week,’’ he said. “Nothing this week and then we’ll re-evaluate after this week and see where he is.

“Probably anticipate him being out all (summer)? No.’’

This has been Luck’s first “normal’’ offseason in several years. Previously, he dealt with ongoing and initially ineffective rehab after injuring his right shoulder in week 3 of the 2015 season. He underwent surgery in January 2017 and would miss all of ’17 when his rehab stalled in late October.

Luck didn’t begin throwing a regulation football until late June or early July last summer, then went on to regain his Pro Bowl form and lead the Colts to their first playoff appearance since 2014.

Last month, Luck described this offseason as “the best offseason I ever had.’’

It included him getting married to long-time girlfriend Nicole Pechanec in Prague in March.

With Luck spending extra time with director of sports medicine Erin Barill and the team’s rehab staff, quarterbacking duties were shifted to a pair of returnees – Jacoby Brissett and Phillip Walker – and Kelly, who was signed Monday.

As Reich and general manager Chris Ballard were finalizing their 90-player roster heading into the OTA phase of the offseason, they agreed carrying four quarterbacks was necessary to spread the workload.

“We always go in with four,’’ Reich said. “As we sat down and talked about who the four would be, Chad’s name came up.’’

Kelly participated in the recent rookie minicamp as a tryout. The personnel staff saw enough of him to sign him to a contract, even with his checkered background.

Kelly, 25, was a 2017 seventh-round draft pick of Denver who was waived by the Broncos in October 2018 after he pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal trespassing for an incident in Englewood, Colo. He also was dismissed from Clemson’s team in 2014 for arguing with coaches during the spring game, and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct stemming from a bar fight in Buffalo, N.Y. in 2014.

“Obviously we did a lot of vetting there,’’ Reich said. “Chad has a lot of good tape out there. Each one of these deals is different, case-by-case.

“Whenever you take a person in Chad’s situation, it’s a case-by-case basis. Felt like from the tape that we saw, what the scouts thought, what we saw looking at the tape, vetting that we did, people that we talked to, just felt like we’d give Chad a chance to come in and compete as the fourth guy.’’

Where it goes from here, Reich added, is up to Kelly.

“Hey, we all every day have to prove it,’’ he said. “Chad knows he has to prove it. He knows he’s getting a second chance. But he did come in here at rookie minicamp and looked good. We’re comfortable with it at this point.’’

To be totally honest, Reich’s relationship with Kelly’s uncle, Jim Kelly, didn’t hurt. Reich and Jim Kelly were teammates with the Buffalo Bills for a decade, and they remain close.

“You’re vetting these things out, you’re talking to everybody you know,’’ Reich said. “Obviously Jim and I are close. I know Jim has been mentoring Chad in a lot of ways, talking to him over the last year about being a pro and so on.

“That played into it a little bit.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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