Andrew Luck can be 'one of the greatest players to play the game,' Jim Irsay says

WESTFIELD, Ind. -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hasn't played in an NFL game in more than 19 months. He hasn't been healthy in almost three years. But that didn't stop Colts owner Jim Irsay from saying Luck will be one of the all-time best at his position by the time his career is complete.

"I think he has a chance to be one of the greatest players to play the game going forward," Irsay said during the team's night practice Friday. "Turning 29 during the season and moving forward for the next 10 years, I really do. He is a special guy in a number of ways."

Luck has not had any setbacks during the first week of the team's training camp. He has been a full participant in six of the Colts' eight practices. The other two practices consisted of Luck doing everything with the exception of throwing the ball because the team has scripted out a training camp schedule for the quarterback that allows him to have rest days on his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Luck made his deepest throw during training camp Friday when he completed a pass of more than 50 yards to receiver K.J. Brent. Luck sprinted the length of the field in excitement and jumped into Brent's arms.

Luck, barring any kind of setbacks, will start in the Colts' preseason opener at Seattle on Aug. 9.

"Say, 'Hey, you're going to play a quarter.' You go out, have a great 12-play drive," coach Frank Reich said. "Sometimes you cut it off. Sometimes you play another series, so that'll be the mindset going in."

Luck was looked upon as one of the top quarterbacks during his first three seasons when he led the Colts to the playoffs in each of those years, including the AFC Championship Game in 2014. But then his body started to break down in 2015 from all the hits he took. He suffered a lacerated kidney and injuries to his ribs and his right shoulder, which he had surgery on in January 2017 and caused him to miss all of last season. Luck has missed 26 games over the past three seasons.

In training camp, he has brought a burst of energy to a team that lacked much of it during its 4-12 season last year.

"It's just fun for me, it really is," Luck said. "I think intellectually, I used to understand when people would say, 'You don't really appreciate it until it is taken away from you.' Well yeah, of course. It's obvious. You take it away from me and then appreciate it. But I don't think I ever truly felt that about something that I loved a lot, a game. I certainly emotionally feel that now.

"I appreciate things I think just a little differently and I am allowing myself to have a little more fun with it, if that makes sense. Be a little more patient and not be too judgmental towards myself or anybody else or anything that has happened. It's more fun, and it feels a little less stressful, if that makes sense."

Irsay is so confident about Luck's return that he mentioned the Colts could have an offense that puts up "Star Wars" type numbers with him at quarterback.

"Colts fans should feel fortunate they are to have a guy as gifted as he is because he has a fire burning deep in his heart and his soul to win and to really kick some butt deep inside of him," Irsay said. "That's what you look for. That is what you want in guys like that, who have that yearning. He loves to play football and would play it for free, and he is excited about going out and proving just how great he can be."