<
>

Andrew Luck's next step in recovery? Getting hit in a game

play
Luck says he contemplated stepping away from football (1:39)

Andrew Luck discusses his return to the football field and how he's having more fun playing football now than he did before. (1:39)

WESTFIELD, Ind. -- The boxes have been checked off one by one so far.

Being a full participant when practicing? Check.

Improved timing, strength and recovery periods? Check.

No setbacks? That's the biggest check -- up to this point.

But now Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is about to face his next "milepost" on Thursday at Century Link Field in Seattle (10 p.m. ET). Luck faces the possibility of getting hit in a game for the first time since the final game of the 2016 season. Quarterbacks wear red jerseys in practice and are off-limits from being touched by defenders.

"Part of the game, part of playing in a game is being able to go through a hurdle like getting hit, something happens, something doesn't go right, and surviving in a sense," Luck said. "And being able to check that box in your mind, whether it's a hit, and there are other things."

The quarterback has routinely said he likes to get the first hit of the season out of the way. Luck's first hit this season will be heavily monitored.

Did he get hit directly on his surgically repaired right shoulder?

How long did it take him to get up?

Did he get up pushing off the ground with his right arm?

How was his delivery after getting hit?

Those questions -- and many more -- will continue for the foreseeable future as Luck continues to fight his way back from missing the 2017 season.

This isn't a situation where the Colts should hold Luck out because it's a preseason game. The franchise can't keep him in bubble wrap forever. Luck needs to face live action to knock the rust off and work on his timing after being out for 19 months.

"I mean one thing we all know about Andrew -- physically getting your whole entire body to take the beating that you take as a quarterback in this league," Colts coach Frank Reich said. "He certainly -- I'm not going to say more than -- but has worked as much as any quarterback of preparing himself physically. He's got the size. Yeah, I think it is important to take that hit, get up and let's go."

Reich wouldn't put any specifics on how much Luck will play against the Seahawks. It could be up to a quarter or as little as a drive or two. How things are going during the game will dictate Luck's playing time. Injuries along the offensive line could also affect the type of plays that are called when he's in the game. Starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo and Denzelle Good, who is in the mix for the starting right tackle spot, have both been out with hamstring injuries.

"You always take that into account every single week," offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. "You that take into account, 'Hey who's up, who's down, who do they have that's good or who do they have that's exceptional? That's up and that's down.' I was always taught that you never let their best player beat you. We figure out when we go through it, 'Hey this guy is up, this guy is down.' Then we figure out from there [that] this is how we have to protect it. It's kind of a routine."

The goal is pretty simple Thursday: Get Luck some snaps and don't have him get injured.

"It has been a while. A long time. It will be fun, I will be nervous," Luck said.