Colts will get 'energy boost' when Andrew Luck returns to practice

Mortensen: Colts' record doesn't matter, Luck will play (0:55)

Chris Mortensen explains that Andrew Luck will return at some point this season regardless of how bad the Colts' record is. (0:55)

INDIANAPOLIS -- For more than eight months, the most asked question surrounding the Indianapolis Colts has been: When will quarterback Andrew Luck return from January right shoulder surgery?

The answer could be coming soon. The next step in Luck’s return could be taking place in the coming days. The Colts' franchise quarterback, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, could return to practice as early as this week.

“Number 12, he’s our man,” running back Frank Gore said of Luck, whose jersey number is 12. “He really makes this ship go. With him, it’ll be even greater. He loves the game. That’s one guy that I think loves football more than me. He loves football and I respect him. My three years here, that’s a football player. Tough, smart, true football player.”

Colts coach Chuck Pagano wasn’t ready on Sunday to say that Luck will practice this week.

“It’s too early right now to tell,” Pagano said. “He’s making great progress. It’s the same report. I wish I had more to give you. I don’t anticipate it, but who knows?”

“But who knows?”

That may seem like a small thing, but the reality is those three words could be looked upon as a positive. Pagano has regularly said since the summer that there’s no timetable on when Luck will practice. That’s the closest thing Pagano has said about the possibility of Luck returning. The Colts practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week before playing the Seattle Seahawks in prime time on Sunday.

The Colts’ desire -- as Pagano and general manager Chris Ballard have expressed for months now -- is not to rush Luck back because they want him as healthy as possible. The Colts want to avoid a situation where Luck, who was originally injured in Week 3 of the 2015 season, has to miss practice time on a regular basis. That was the case last year when he was limited in practice at least one day in each week of the season.

If Pagano sticks to what he said back in June, Luck will be on a “pitch count” once he does start to practice. Mortensen reported that Luck will need three to four weeks of practice before he’ll be ready to start a game. That means he could be available in Week 7 against Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Luck, who hadn’t missed a meaningful snap during the first three years of his NFL career, has missed a total of 13 games over the past three seasons. This is the longest Luck has gone in his career at any level without playing or practicing.

“Anytime you get your franchise quarterback back, even practicing, it’s an energy boost to the team, even on the practice field,” Colts safety Darius Butler said. “He’s kind of been lurking in the shadows during his rehab. It’ll be exciting to get him back on the field. We have all the confidence with Jacoby [Brissett] out there. I’ve been around [Luck] for six years now -- I know he wants to be out there more than anything. I’ve seen the things he’s played through.”

Brissett, who was acquired from New England on Sept. 2, led the Colts to their first victory of the season with a 31-28 win over Cleveland on Sunday. They’ll be in a good position if he continues to play well and keeps the Colts in contention until Luck is finally cleared to play in a game, possibly next month.

“All [Luck] knows is football,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “We know [not playing] hurts him, but at the end of the day, the main thing is get healthy.”