Andrew Luck’s Injury & Return Remains a Mystery

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Andrew Luck will not play during the 2017 season.

Andrew Luck was once viewed as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and the top quarterback college prospect to enter the NFL draft in decades. Today, doubt swirls over whether Luck can return to his prior form with little information flowing about Luck’s shoulder injury over the last year. Luck had shoulder surgery at the beginning of 2017, and has not been able to play football since the surgery. Although he was expected to be ready for the start of the season, Luck will not play at all in 2017.

According to 1070 the Fan, Luck is in Europe getting treatment on his shoulder, and has not been on the Colts sideline since their October 29 game with the Bengals.

“He’s doing fine, communicating via email and text, making progress,” Chuck Pagano told 1070 the Fan. “He’s communicating with our docs and our trainers and they’re all communicating together.”

It’s just the latest in a long line of vagueness as Luck has spent the better part of two seasons recovering from an injury. As Sports Illustrated points out in a lengthy injury timeline, the first sign of a shoulder injury for Luck came in 2015, but he was later sidelined the same season with a lacerated kidney. Four days before the Colts 2016 opener, Luck was listed on the injury report with a shoulder issue, but played the majority of the season. In January 2017, Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted out Luck had shoulder surgery, but would be back for the start of the season.

Luck will end up not playing a snap during the 2017 season, and information has been limited on what exactly is going on. There were signs during the off-season that Luck was not progressing like many originally expected. Luck attempted to practice in October, but his comeback was halted after he experienced soreness in his shoulder.

“It’s natural there’s going to be some pain and soreness when you’re rehabbing an injury,” Colts GM Chris Ballard told the Indy Star. “And it’s been kinda coming along the whole time. [The soreness] is just one thing that hasn’t gone away. We’re going to shut it down and calm it down for a while.”

Would the Colts and Luck have handled it differently if Indianapolis had remained competitive without Luck? It is difficult to imagine this did not play some role in the decision for Luck not to play this season. However, given this injury dates back to 2015, and Luck is now in Europe receiving treatment there is reason for concern. It also sounds like Luck and the Colts are no longer on the same page.

In a November interview on The Dan Patrick Show (via CBS Sports), Tony Dungy relayed some of the doubts the Colts are feeling about Luck behind close doors.

“I don’t know what’s going on there [in Indianapolis],” Dungy explained. “Jim Irsay made a comment to me about six weeks ago, ‘It’s inside his head now.’”

Even with a potential rift between Irsay and Luck, Dungy noted he does not expect Luck to play elsewhere next season.

I think it is [Luck’s future in Indianapolis], but I’m concerned about [his] physical health. Where is he? Because he’s going to throw, he’s not going to throw, he’s not going to throw 100 percent. We thought he was going to be ready, he’s not going to be ready. Where is he physically? The reason why I say it’s going to be in Indianapolis — think back five years and Peyton Manning and supposedly he’s done and he’s got this neck surgery and he’ll never throw again and he goes and wins another Super Bowl for another team. I don’t see Jim Irsay wanting to have that happen. Hey, where’s Andrew Luck, he’s not playing — and he wins for somebody else. I think he’ll be in Indianapolis.

WTHR’s Bob Kravitz, who has covered the Colts for decades, believes the tension between the two sides could be so high Luck would consider retirement. In an interview on Mile High Sports, Kravitz explained why retirement could be an option.

If I’m Andrew Luck, that’s [Irsay’s negative comments] not something I want to hear from my team’s owner, when I’ve got my brains beat in, and have been hit more times than any quarterback since 2012. Here’s the only thing I could see happening… I could see him retiring. I know that sounds crazy…Andrew is a bit of a Renaissance guy, he’s into a lot of different things. I think there’s a one percent chance he could say, ‘you know, it’s not really worth it’ with the CTE concerns and everything else, but I think that’s a real long shot.

It is important to note Luck has not publicly said he is contemplating retirement, and it would be a surprising move given Luck is just 28 years old. ESPN’s Bill Polian reported Luck is expected to return for the 2018 season, but given his complicated injury history there is reason to remain skeptical.