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Doyel: Hard to believe Colts aren't worried about Andrew Luck's shoulder

Luck is "continuing to make great progress. Not good progress — great progress, in every way."Someone in the media asked: Is he throwing yet? "No," Reich said. "No throwing of the football."
Courtesy USA Today Sports

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. — Andrew Luck still isn’t throwing a football, and that’s weird. His bosses with the Indianapolis Colts profess to be fine with it, and that’s really weird.

We’ve not reached the “everyone freak out” stage, not yet, but with minicamp starting in five days and training camp in about seven weeks, that day's visible on the horizon. Colts coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard speak with such absolute confidence of Luck’s return — Reich has said he is “absolutely confident” Luck will be ready to open the 2018 season — it’s starting to feel easier to dismiss them entirely than take them at their word.

Not that they seem to be lying. They don’t. Their deeds do in fact match their words. Everything the Colts have done this offseason, including trading out of the No. 3 overall pick in a draft heavy with elite quarterback prospects, passing on several such prospects with the No. 6 pick and not signing a veteran QB in free agency — indicates the Colts truly are “comfortable” with Luck’s rehab (Ballard on April 20) and “encouraged” by his progress (Reich on May 30) and “very confident” he’ll make a complete return (Ballard on Feb. 7). As recently as Thursday, Reich was saying that Luck is “continuing to make great progress. Not good progress — great progress, in every way.”

Someone in the media asked: Is he throwing yet?

“No,” Reich said. “No throwing of the football.”

As I said: Weird. No idea how a quarterback can make great progress — not good progress; great progress — and make it “in every way” if he’s not throwing a football yet. It’s not just me, right? You see how weird this is, don’t you?

Some of you don’t see. You see what the Colts ask you to see, that’s your choice, and I’m not mad at ya. Kindly return the favor and don’t be mad at me when I point out that nothing has happened in this Andrew Luck shoulder saga — nothing said, nothing done — to earn our blind faith that every little thing is gonna be all right.

The team let him play hurt in 2015 and let him keep playing hurt until surgery was necessary in January 2017. Six months later he was throwing a football, part of his rehab program, and everything was said to be going great until it wasn’t going at all; he was shut down in October with shoulder soreness. Then he went to Europe, where he had things done to his shoulder that nobody will discuss in detail.

Almost eight months later, Andrew Luck still isn’t throwing.

The timeline speaks for itself, and the timeline is saying: Weird. But the Colts are speaking too, and they sound ridiculous. On May 23, Frank Reich said: “I’m not worried at all” about Luck, which seems impossible to believe. How can you not worry? For years, nobody has missed as much time from a single labrum surgery as Luck has missed, and continues to miss. Every player is different, I get that, but Drew Brees was throwing again less than seven months after his 2006 surgery, and has played his best football since then. It has been almost 17 months since Luck’s surgery, and he’s not throwing.

On Thursday, asked for the obligatory Luck update, Reich nearly blurted something silly.

“Really excit- …” Reich said, almost automatically, before deciding that perhaps “really excited” or “really exciting” isn’t the way to describe a franchise quarterback in Luck’s spot. “Just continuing to make great progress. Not good progress — great progress, in every way. When you see him every day, when you see what we’re doing as a team in meeting rooms, every aspect, (I’m) very encouraged.”

Reich’s going to be an X’s-and-O’s upgrade on Chuck Pagano, I’m sure of that — won’t take much, to be honest — but he might have the Pollyanna gene in common with his predecessor. That might win the locker room, if not a skeptical fan base. By the time he was done telling us how great everything and everyone was at the ‘Shoe, Chuck Pagano had zero credibility. If he spoke, we assumed he was lying.

Reich (and Ballard) speak about Luck, and it sounds … not like they’re lying. Not that. Mistaken? Naïve? Foolish? Yeah, like that. And it sounds hard to believe. Reich talked Thursday about Luck’s intelligence, saying Luck is picking up the new offense — and no, that doesn’t sound hard to believe. It’s what he said next:

“This guy’s really smart. We know that,” Reich said. “That’s why we feel really confident and really good where we’re at.”

Great, but: Luck’s brain isn’t the problem. His shoulder is. Well, his throwing motion is the problem. The shoulder itself is enormous, as is everything else about Luck’s upper body. He walked past the media on Thursday looking as big as I’ve ever seen him. Looks like he can lift a fridge, but he can’t — or won’t — throw a football.

Speaking of that …

Reich on Thursday said Luck will throw “when he’s ready to go and ready to pick it up here and get out here with us.”

“He certainly has a big say in it. He has to,” Reich said. “Gotta trust the player. … Really, any player who’s injured goes through the same thing. The doctors kind of give the thumbs up and there’s a lot to say and you get the tests and you feel all that stuff, but at the end of the day the player’s got to feel ready to go. That’s been my experience at every position.”

But we’re not talking about every position or any player. We’re talking about quarterback Andrew Luck, and Colts coach Frank Reich just went here: “The doctors kind of give the thumbs up.” And then he pointed to his own torso — to his sternum, his heart, his soul, something in that vicinity — and said this:

“It’s got to come from down in here,” Reich said, finger on sternum. “There’s an instinct as a player that you know when you’re ready to go. You keep testing it and testing it and you work with the people you’re working, and you trust your instinct when you’re ready to go.”

Hey, we all have instinct. Do you trust yours? I trust mine. Weird, weird, weird, is what mine keeps saying.