INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Reggie Wayne is like so many others when the topic turns to whether Andrew Luck will be ready for the Indianapolis Colts’ Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.
“I have no idea,’’ he said Thursday during a conference call with NFL Network analysts.
Then, one of the most personable players and prolific receivers in Colts history offered an addendum that was encouraging but totally unsubstantiated.
“From what I understand,’’ Wayne said, “he should be available, so we’ll see.’’
Yes, we will.
The Colts continue to talk in ambiguities while their most indispensible player – Andrew Luck – remains on the physically unable to perform list.
When asked for an update on Luck last week, Chuck Pagano offered: “Same, same. Making progress, doing well.’’
Shortly thereafter, Luck was a spectator at a couple of practices. Previously, he had remained out of sight while rehabbing from January surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
“I wouldn’t read too much into it if I was you,’’ Pagano warned.
Wednesday, GM Chris Ballard told NFL Network Luck had progressed in his throwing program and all indications were Luck would not open the season on PUP. That would require him to miss at least the first six games of the season.
That was totally in line with what Ballard shared with the local media as camp opened in late July.
Ballard also stressed the team won’t hasten Luck’s return. The necessary steps will be taken to ensure Luck’s long-term health.
While Luck rehabs, the offense remains in the hands of Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris and rookie Phillip Walker. They’ve been wildly inconsistent during camp, including Thursday’s joint practice with the Detroit Lions.
It’s no consolation, but the Colts – Wayne included – have been down this road before. Twice, in fact.
In 2008, Peyton Manning missed the bulk of camp, including all four preseason games, after undergoing surgery in July to address an infected bursa sac in his left knee. In 2011, he missed camp and the entire season due to multiple neck procedures.
It took Manning several weeks to knock off the rust once the regular-season opened, and Luck undoubtedly faces a similar situation.
Whenever Luck is cleared to practice, Wayne insisted “it’s going to take awhile’’ for him to regain his form and reestablish timing with his receivers. Luck’s last pass was delivered Jan. 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a game-winning 1-yard touchdown to Jack Doyle.
“You need your quarterback and receivers to be on the same page, and that takes a little bit,’’ Wayne said. “So when Andrew is available to throw – whether it’s before practice, after practice – him and his receivers are going to have to do that much more as far as getting extra work in on the field.’’
That could be complicated as Luck probably will be on a pitch count when he’s cleared for practice.
Until the individual connectivity returns, everyone around the quarterback must help compensate, according to Wayne. In 2008 and without benefit of a full camp, Manning struggled – 59.3 completion percentage, 6.5 yards per attempt, four touchdowns, three interceptions – and the Colts followed suit. They started 1-2 before Manning hit his stride and the team closed the season with a nine-game winning streak.
“One thing we did do (in ’08), knowing our quarterback wasn’t available, we stressed making sure our running game was on point,’’ Wayne said. “We kind of force-fed ourselves on the run game to make sure it was ready to go just in case our quarterback does start off sluggish.
“We all know that the Colts have been struggling in the run game, so there’s no way they should come out of this preseason and not be a better running team.’’
Still, it’s going to take time for Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and the rest of the passing game to click.
“But as far as the quarterback being there and available, we know he knows his drops,’’ Wayne said. “We know he knows how to hand it off to the running back.
“But as far as receivers, he’s just going to have to get that much more work in whether it’s before practice, after practice. You’ve just got to keep doing it and doing it until he’s feeling better.’’