INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The most pertinent news coming out of the wreckage that was the Indianapolis Colts’ offensively-challenged preseason loss to the Detroit Lions dealt with the quarterback who didn’t contribute to it.
That would be Andrew Luck, who witnessed the 24-10 eyesore from the safety of the sideline.
The overriding message: Hurry back, 12.
The team’s most indispensable player’s rehab from January shoulder surgery has advanced to where he’s actually throwing a football, albeit with limitations, and is on pace to be moved off the physically unable to perform list before the start of the season.
The unanswered question, though, is whether Luck will be turned loose by the medical/rehab staff and allowed to start the Sept. 10 opener against the Rams in Los Angeles.
Owner Jim Irsay shared a recent conversation with his franchise QB.
“He said, ‘Jim, I know I’m going to be even a better quarterback than I’ve ever been before. I just don’t know when,’’’ he said outside the Colts locker room. “That could be Sept. 10. It could be Sept. 20.’’
Check the calendar, and the opener with the Rams is four weeks away.
“I can’t say that unequivocally he’ll be ready for the Ram game,’’ Irsay said. “But I can say I feel confident he’ll be ready to start the season. Now that may not be the Ram game, but to start the season, yes.
“He could start out in Los Angeles. I don’t want to act like that is a foregone conclusion that he’s not going to be starting out there. He could, but he also could not. But again, we don’t see an extended delay.
“What that means, we’re not going to put a timetable on it because we will not – will not – put any pressure on this decision.’’
Luck suffered a partially torn labrum Sept. 27, 2015 at Tennessee in week 3, and subsequently has dealt with the repercussions of pain and missed or limited practices. He decided to undergo surgery in mid-January.
The Colts have steadfastly insisted they haven’t accelerated Luck’s rehab to increase the possibility of him being ready for the season opener. When Luck reported for the start of training camp July 29, he indicated he had just started throwing a tennis ball a short time earlier. He would not address whether he had even casually tossed a football.
Irsay’s enduring message to Luck: Do what’s best for you and your long-term health/career.
“We are very disciplined,’’ he said. “This is our future that’s 10, 12, hopefully 14 years, who knows?’’
While Irsay revealed for the first time Luck’s rehab has incorporated throwing a football, he offered a caveat when asked if he’s actually seen his QB throw.
“I have and I haven’t because . . . I don’t think we’ve let him throw like he can throw. We just won’t, yet,’’ he said. “Not until the doctor dictates that it’s time for him to start letting it go a little bit more.
“It’s a progression where he is not throwing the football as strong as he wants to because we won’t let him. He can throw it a lot stronger than he’s throwing it.’’
General manager Chris Ballard said on Fox59 during the game Luck was “doing really well.
“His strength levels are probably better than they were at any point last season.’’
The anxiety over Luck’s continued absence intensified Sunday when his understudies were unable to muster anything resembling a coherent offense. Scott Tolzien, Phillip Walker and Stephen Morris combined to complete 24-of-45 passes for 204 yards – that’s 4.5 yards per attempt – with no touchdowns or interceptions.
The only touchdown – Troymaine Pope’s 1-yard run – came on the game’s final play. The offense finished with 230 total yards, and 90 came on the final drive.
“It’s our job to move the chains and we didn’t do that, so it’s frustrating,’’ Tolzien said. “We’ve got to get better.
“It’s early, but that’s not an excuse.’’
Irsay was asked if a Luck-less Colts team was good enough to win.
“I think we are,’’ he replied. “Obviously after coming off a tough preseason game like today you can make a lot of comments and say ‘How can that be and where are you going to be?’
“We think we can win. We believe we can win going into every game. Do we think we can have a better chance winning with Andrew? Uh, yes, that’s certainly that case.’’
The Colts are drawing outside criticism for not addressing their quarterback depth, but Irsay said options have been explored. Those options, he quickly added, did not include Colin Kaepernick.
“We came semi-close to bringing in a mid-to-late 30 (year old) guy,’’ Irsay said. “We had a number (contract value). They guy wanted more than the number.
“It didn’t work out so we moved on.’’
Until another option comes along – rosters are cut to 53 Sept. 2 and there figures to be proven backup QBs on the market – the team will lean on its three healthy arms and wait for the almost-healthy one to regain its zip.
That process, Irsay noted, includes Luck regaining full confidence in his right shoulder.
“All sports is played on a four-inch field between your ears,’’ he said. “It’s really important that we continue to help Andrew emotionally, mentally get is confidence and his endorsement deep down, his rubber stamp in his heart of hearts because in the end that carries the biggest weight.
“That is going to take someone farther than anything else, self-belief.’’