INDIANAPOLIS -- Andrew Luck has managed to get past every hurdle he has had to overcome since he started throwing a regulation-size football in the middle of June.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback faces his final hurdle when he'll play his first regular-season game in nearly two years on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Luck hasn't played a complete game since leading the Colts to a come-from-behind victory over Jacksonville on Jan. 1, 2017.
Luck, who originally injured his right shoulder in Week 3 of the 2015 season, continued to check boxes in his return during the preseason. He managed being sacked, taking hits while scrambling and he's capable of making every throw in the playbook. Now it's a matter of him being able to do all those things at a high level throughout the course of an entire game. Luck was 20-of-32 for 204 yards and a touchdown pass in 11 series in the preseason.
"That's probably a fair characterization, the final hurdle," coach Frank Reich said. "[He's] had hundreds and maybe thousands of reps so feel really prepared. I think what's exciting for our team and our fans is we get him for 60 minutes and the longer a guy like that is out on the field, the better."
Luck suffered a minor foot injury in the third preseason game against San Francisco on Aug. 25 that caused him to miss some practice time last week. He wouldn't have missed any time if it were the regular season.
Having Luck back will end a long and grueling nearly 20-month recovery period that caused the Colts franchise quarterback to miss the entire 2017 season. It was a journey that took him to the Netherlands for rehabilitation, Southern California to work on his throwing mechanics and also featured a lot of frustration throughout the process. The Colts are coming off a 4-12 season.
"I hesitate in saying the comeback has come full circle," Luck said. "I just want to go out and play football. I feel really good and I'm really excited. I feel like I'm in great shape, feel like I can make all the throws I need. I like to think I can keep improving as a quarterback. Improving as a football player, improving as an athlete."
Luck, who has been sacked 156 times in his career, could have some help along the offensive line because veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) practiced for the first time in five weeks Wednesday. Coach Frank Reich needs to see Castonzo, arguably the second-most important player on offense behind Luck, practice before making a decision on his status against the Bengals.
"He's been working hard," Reich said. "It's not like physically he hasn't been working hard and getting some field work out there. We are just on a day-to-day basis."