“Competitive nature, you want to play,” he said.
That’s just Andrew Luck. He wants to help his teammates out as much as possible. He also wants to try to salvage what he can from the worst season of his four-year NFL career (2-5 record, 15 sacks, 12 interceptions).
You can commend Luck, who already has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Dolphins, for wanting to return. But he doesn’t need to play the rest of the season. It’s not worth it because Luck is the franchise. The Colts know it, too. That’s why coach Chuck Pagano was noncommittal Tuesday on whether Luck will play in the season finale against Tennessee if the Colts are eliminated from the playoffs and the doctors have cleared him to play.
“I think we’d wait and probably have that discussion if he does get cleared and he is healthy,” Pagano said. “I can’t answer that right now.”
The original diagnosis for Luck to return from his lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle was two to six weeks. A two-week recovery was unrealistic from the start, and it’s already past the six-week mark for Luck, who on Dec. 16 practiced with his teammates for the first time since the injury happened against Denver in early November.
“I [did] think I would be playing,” Luck said. “But at the same time I realize the sort of ambiguity maybe of this type of injury. Not that it’s unprecedented, but it’s just not much to do about it and no one has much info on it so take it for what it’s worth.”
Luck’s value to the franchise has been even more evident during his absence, especially during the Colts' current three-game losing streak. He has left a major void on the roster that has impacted the offense and the defense. A strong defensive effort in six of the past eight quarters has gone to waste because the offense has scored a total of 26 points in the past two games.
Having Luck return for what could be a meaningless game against the Titans is too risky. Indianapolis can't afford for Luck to suffer another injury during a time when there could be a lot of changes, from the coaching staff to the players on the roster, in the offseason. That's a possibility when you consider the Colts' offensive line has gotten worse as the season has progressed. That's flirting with danger with Luck.
Just look at Luck’s replacement, Matt Hasselbeck, if you need further proof. Hasselbeck has been injured in each of the past three games.
Luck’s patience has been tested through this. He has never missed this many games in a season at any level. He didn't miss a snap due to injury during his first three NFL seasons. But he’s currently relegated to watching helplessly on the sideline as the Colts could miss the playoffs for the first time since before they made Luck the No. 1 overall pick in 2012.
“Is he frustrated? Heck yeah,” Pagano said. “He’s a competitive, competitive guy. You know that. This is really his first taste of being sidelined, and it’s hard because he feels that I need to be there for the team, my teammates and all that stuff. At the same time, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to listen to the doctors and you’ve got to go through the protocol so to speak. You’ve got to do your rehab, you’ve got to mend and you’ve got to heal. Frustrated? Yeah.”