INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The uncertainty of the next few weeks and months beats the alternative for Andrew Luck.
He’s not heading into an offseason (2016) after missing the final seven games of ‘15 with a lacerated kidney and aware damage had been done to his right shoulder in the third week of the season.
He’s not heading into an offseason (2017) dealing with general body trauma – injuries to his right shoulder, right elbow and ribs, along with a concussion, while absorbing 41 sacks – that forced him to miss one game in ’16 and kept him from practicing on a full-go basis in half of the team’s 48 practices.
He’s not heading into an offseason (2018) still in recovery mode and uncertain when – if for cryin’ out loud! – he’d ever throw a football at a competitive level again following January 2017 surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. That rehab, as we all know, hit a snag and forced Luck to miss all of ’17.
Now, he’s heading into the offseason that at least initially affords him an opportunity to hit the pause button and climb off that rehab treadmill he’s been on for the better of four years.
The face of the Indianapolis Colts is able to do whatever he wants, including nothing if he so chooses, which is most certainly not going to be the case. So, what’s on the immediate itinerary in the aftermath of Saturday’s season-ending 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC divisional round matchup?
“I don’t know,’’ Luck said Sunday with a hearty laugh. “We’ll find out. I know personally it’s a little bit exciting, but I also know how much I can improve, how much better I can be.’’
Will you just get away?
“Yeah, I think so,’’ he replied, quickly adding, “I don’t have this desire to run away and hide for a couple of weeks, if that makes sense.
“I probably won’t throw for a while. There’ll be tweaks. There’s be changes to what I do, but all of it geared to one, making me as happy as possible and two, set me up to improve as a quarterback, improve as a person.’’
Luck has been more introspective and sharing with personal issues after completing his comeback from shoulder surgery. He’s repeatedly mentioned his appreciation for being able to play after having it taken away from him, and the fun he’s had once again competing at a high level and with what he considers a great group of teammates.
After missing last season and fine-tuning his throwing mechanics, Luck passed for 39 touchdowns and 4,593 yards. He set personal bests with 430 completions, 639 attempts, a 67.3 completion percentage and 98.7 passer rating.
How does he feel he has improved as a quarterback?
“Oh, man, I think I threw the ball better, simply,’’ he said. “I think I learned to manage situations better. I think in the odd sort of self-preservation of a quarterback that maybe that mentality . . . I did that better.
“I didn’t miss any practices during the season. I didn’t miss any games. I needed to prove that to myself that I could be durable. Part of playing this position is availability.’’
But during training camp and the season, Luck also talked of growing as a person and reaching out for help whenever his rehab stalled or regressed. He’s heaped praise on his supporting cast, from the Colts’ rehab staff to the personal trainer he worked with in The Netherlands to West Coast throwing guru Tom House to his family to Nicole, his girlfriend.
The growth is undeniable. He’s been able to adequately mix his personal and professional lives during the season.
“In past seasons there has been a massive emotional letdown or flip (at the end of a season) and you say, ‘OK, now I can try to be a good boyfriend or now I can try to do this or that,’’’ Luck said. “But it doesn’t seem that way this year.
“One of my challenges for myself was to maybe not silo everything in my life so much, but be able to exist as a happy human throughout the season, not just after the season.’’
Again, this offseason figures to be much different from his most recent ones. It’s been a long, demanding grind that has required his undivided attention.
“Looking back on it, yeah, a little bit,’’ Luck said. “And it’s certainly changed and will be a different type of offseason.’’
Anthony Castonzo is one of Luck’s closest friends on the team; they’ve been together since Luck’s arrival as the first overall pick in the draft in 2012.
He doesn’t expect Luck to spend the next few weeks and months doing nothing.
“I doubt that,’’ Castonzo said. “He’ll probably try to, but even when he gets away, he and I are the same. You get away but you find a gym somewhere to get your work in. You feel like garbage if you don’t.
“Regardless how much he says he’s going to get away, I don’t think he’s going to get away. You get away for about a week and you start to get that itch.’’
Even so, Frank Reich made it clear Luck needs to get away for some period of time.
“Oh, man . . . he’s got to be fired up right now to actually have a normal offseason to get away,’’ he said. “I know he’s still going to do his deal and be disciplined, but (he needs to) just relax.
“My encouragement to him would be, ‘You’d better do that. You’d better take advantage of it and get some rest.’ I’m sure he will.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51,