INDIANAPOLIS -- Colts quarterback Andrew Luck not only threw a football in front of the media Tuesday for the first time since he was shut down last October, he also said he will "absolutely" be playing the team's Week 1 opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"No knock on wood," Luck said. "I'll be playing. I believe it in my bones."
Luck, who had surgery on his right shoulder in January 2017, jogged from the team's indoor practice facility out to the practice field about 10 minutes after the start of practice. He threw a Wilson TDS 1205 football, which is a college-size ball, during individual position drills under the watchful eye of head coach Frank Reich before eventually heading back into the Colts' indoor facility about 30 minutes later. Luck made 20-25 throws.
"I've been seeing every workout," Reich said. "I spend a lot of time with all our players, but obviously during Andrew's rehab process I try to be out there for as many workouts as I can no matter when that is. Not only the throwing portion of them, (but) when he's throwing the weighted balls and then phasing into what you saw (Tuesday). I like to go out there and I like to watch some of the other stuff he's doing, the lifting, plus the whole thing. It's part of getting to know your guys and seeing the process and having confidence in it."
Luck threw a regulation football once several weeks ago when he called Reich at his house and asked him to come to the facility to help him with a "little mental block" that he had to overcome. Luck said he made Reich "swear" not to tell anybody about throwing a regulation football because it was his "story to tell." But the majority of his throwing currently is with the college-size ball.
"The reason I'm using a little less smaller football is it puts less stress," Luck said. "And throwing weighted balls. And the difference between throwing a round ball and a football is how it comes off your hand and often things like that. We're not in Indianapolis and the 500 just happened, our bodies aren't vehicles, we aren't robots.
"You can't just take a piece off and put a new piece on and go around. We adapt, and if you ask the right questions and if you're patient enough you can truly learn, and I believe in my bones if I stay patient and ask the right questions and communicate with everybody about my body that slowly but surely I can make myself do anything. That's sort of been MO."
Luck has been a regular at offseason workouts since the Colts started in early April, but his work had consisted of taking part in individual drills without throwing the ball and continued rehabilitation on his shoulder.
Throwing a football, albeit a smaller one, is hopefully another step in Luck's long road to finally playing in a regular-season game for the first time since Week 17 of the 2016 season. Owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard have been steadfast in saying that they're confident that Luck will be ready for the start of the 2018 season.
The Colts have Luck's schedule lined up all the way up the team's opener against the Bengals. Barring any kind of setback, Luck will enter training camp at the end of next month without any restrictions.
"My goal is to be able to throw as much as I need to in a game week," Luck said. "Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at practice and a Sunday, let it loose, no count, nothing. You gotta go and let it go. That's what I'm preparing for. That's why right now I'm throwing Mondays Tuesdays Wednesdays and Fridays, to mimic a three-day practice week and a practice as Sunday game day."
Luck originally injured his shoulder, which started a downward spiral of injuries for him, in a Week 3 game against the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 season. He re-injured the shoulder trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception against Denver in Week 2 of the 2016 season. Luck still played in 15 games that season but was limited in practice at least one day each week.
Luck finally decided to have surgery in January 2017. Irsay thought he would have his franchise quarterback for the 2017 season but instead saw him suffer a setback while trying to get back on the field. After practicing a handful of times in October, Luck was given a cortisone shot, shut down and eventually placed on injured reserve because of continued soreness in his shoulder. He spent about six weeks rehabbing in the Netherlands in late 2017 before going to Southern California to work with throwing experts to improve his throwing motion. Luck said he no longer has the same pain in his shoulder that he suffered from last season.
"I think there's a fine line between not pressing too hard and not being too laissez faire about it," Luck said. "There's a line and you wanna take as much as you can each day but you don't wanna cross that line. Enough is enough. I feel way more sort of in tune with my body. That allows the people that are helping me to help me better. And so I think that makes everything better.
The Colts have suffered for most of the past three seasons without Luck on the field. They've missed the playoffs in each, including going 4-12 last season. Luck missed 26 games in that three-season span after leading the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, when he took every meaningful snap.
"When you have that guy on the field, everyone knows you've got a chance and the sky's the limit," Irsay said. "... Good quarterbacks are obviously all very exciting and important to watch, but he's got that extra flair like Brett Favre and a couple of the guys that make some even more exciting than most, because when everything breaks down, you just don't know what he's going to do. We've kind of tried to say, 'Sometimes, Andrew, just shut down the play.' It's easier said than done because when you have greatness like that you think about shutting this play down (but) there's still a chance. I can throw the ball through the eye of the needle so to speak.'"