INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 14, 2015) – While his head coach remained noncommittal, Andrew Luck gave every impression he’s poised to return to practice and indicated he’s closer than ever to returning to aid the Indianapolis Colts’ faltering push to the postseason.
All that’s missing is the green light from the team’s medical staff.
“No update there,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said Monday when asked about the status of his three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who’s missed the last four games with a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle.
Prior to Pagano’s 4 o’clock press conference, Luck told the media his goal was “to practice this week,’’ although he quickly added “I do not feel like I’m 100 percent back from prior (to the) injury.’’
He reiterated he plans on returning before the end of the season.
“Yeah, absolutely,’’ Luck said.
Again, Pagano was guarded whether that return might be Wednesday.
“I have not heard anything from our trainers or doctors on (Luck practicing),’’ he said.
Luck suffered the kidney and abdominal injuries against Denver Nov. 8, and the initial prognosis was for him to miss up to six weeks.
That time frame would have Luck returning for either Sunday’s AFC South showdown with the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium, or the Dec. 27 trip to Miami.
Luck has continually increased his workout regimen. He’s been throwing for at least two weeks, has been lifting weights and added sprints last week.
The next and most important step is for team doctors to clear Luck for practice. If that occurs and he’s back on the field Wednesday, it’s conceivable he could start against the Texans in a game that very likely will determine the AFC South title. Each team is 6-7, but the Colts hold the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff picture on the strength of their Oct. 8 win at Houston.
But even if Luck practices Wednesday, there’s no assurance he’ll play against the Texans. Doctors would have to clear him for that after determining how he handled practice.
“The hope is you start practicing maybe before that time so when you are cleared to play you can hit the ground running,’’ Luck said. “I’m such a big believer in practice and always will be. You can’t just sit out per se for however many weeks it’s been and show up, practice a week and go and expect to be where you want to be.’’
Luck was asked if he’s cleared to practice Wednesday and cleared to play Sunday, could he start versus the Texans?
“If I’m cleared, yeah, 100 percent? Sure,’’ he said. “But I don’t have to answer that question right now.’’
Luck acknowledged the Colts’ current predicament won’t impact the decision-making process. The team has absorbed consecutive 35-point losses for the first time in franchise history that have its season teetering on the brink, and backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was forced from the 51-16 loss at Jacksonville after aggravating a rib injury in the fourth quarter.
Hasselbeck also is dealing with a neck injury. He might be held out of Wednesday’s practice, but Pagano expects him to practice Thursday. If Hasselbeck and Luck are both unable to play, Charlie Whitehurst will get the start.
“I’m itching every week to come back,’’ Luck said. “I think every time’s a great time to come back. But this is a huge game.
“To me, the situation’s been urgent since day 1. I wouldn’t say there’s any more urgency.’’
When Luck returns, it should be business as usual, according to Joel Kory, a sports medicine physician with St. Vincent Sports Medicine and Butler University’s team physician.
“My suggestion would be the risk of re-injuring it would be the same as before,’’ he said. “He just got hit the wrong way to cause the injury.”
“It could happen again, but it’s not like a concussion where once you get one, you’re a little bit higher risk of getting another. Kidney injuries aren’t like that. Once it’s healed, it’s healed.’’
Kory has no immediate knowledge of Luck’s kidney injury, but said it’s clear the team has taken the proper steps in monitoring his rehab. The normal steps include frequent CT scans to determine whether the lacerated kidney is healing, tests to determine if there’s blood in the individual’s urine from the injury and if the individual is tolerating increased physical activity without unusual pain.
“You add all of that stuff together to make the decision whether he can go back in or not,’’ Kory said.
That Luck apparently is throwing, running and lifting without significant discomfort, he added, “absolutely is a good sign. That’s what you do with any injury, whether it’s an internal injury or an ankle sprain.
“Then you say, ‘OK, let’s test you, let’s progress and see how you do with that.’ Then you do another urinalysis and check another CT scan. You do it bit by bit.’’
The final steps are practice and contact in game situations. Although quarterbacks are off limits to contact in practice, Kory wondered if the Colts might decide to “let him get bumped around a little bit before he goes into a game.
“Do you completely put the kid gloves on and not have anyone touch him in practice and just let him go into a game where he could take a vicious hit on the second play? I would probably want him to have a little bit of contact.’’