WESTFIELD, Ind. — On the surface, the calf strain keeping Andrew Luck from practicing in training camp this week shouldn’t be too concerning. Opening day is five weeks away. A calf strain has to heal in two or three weeks, right? Of course it should. Problem is, it’s been lingering since April, and after three MRIs found nothing more severe than a strain, and aftrer Luck has previously taken some time off to help it stop barking, it’s still there.
So that’s where the Colts were Sunday afternoon, as Jacoby Brissett took all the first-team snaps at quarterback and Luck was nowhere to be seen, presumably getting treatment on the calf.
I asked Luck if he had any doubt he’d be ready to play opening day. “No,” he said. “I certainly believe I will [be ready]. That’s certainly the goal.” But when I asked him how stubborn the injury has been, he said: “At times I do worry about it. It can be frustrating. The arc of an injury, whether it’s a big surgical one or something you’re rehabbing through. But no, because I’ve improved. Maybe I’m not improving as fast as I want and missing things is no fun. It eats at you. But I do know at the end of the day if I’m getting the most out of myself, if I’m being the best I can that day, then that’s what I need to do.”
Taken together, it sounds like Luck, and the Colts, are pretty sure he’ll play the opener at the Chargers on Sept. 7. It also sounds like this thing has been driving him nuts. He’s vague about when exactly it happened; I heard it stems from late last season. He says he thinks he aggravated a calf strain this offseason. Whatever, the MRIs don’t show significant damage. That’s why the organization isn’t chewing its nails. Yet.
“When will he practice?” I asked coach Frank Reich.
“We don’t know,” Reich said.
The uncertainty is sort of maddening, unless you consider Reich’s perspective on this. When I sat with him around noon Sunday, he sounded much like the man who interviewed for the Colts coaching job 18 months ago. He never asked GM Chris Ballard about Luck’s recurring and balky shoulder injury. The theory was, Reich had faith he’d win regardless who the quarterback was, and he wanted the job regardless whether Luck would play. Same stuff Sunday.
“As a former player and as a coach, it’s just always my instinct to trust the player,” Reich said. “I really don’t lay awake at night thinking about it. When our players have injuries, I’m not the guy who’s asking every five minutes how they’re doing. That’s just the way I am. Part of that is because I think my 14 years of experience as a player … I know he wants to be there as bad as anybody. Me asking him every five minutes how he’s doing doesn’t help anything.”
I sense the only reason why the Colts aren’t more nervous this morning is because backup Jacoby Brissett is having a very good camp, and the franchise considers him a serviceable starter if he has to play. You’ll recall he played okay in Luck’s place in 2017. On Sunday, Brissett threw a couple of beautiful balls, including an arcing 25-yard fade into the corner of the end zone to T.Y. Hilton in 11-on-11 drills. But there’s a difference between a hot Sunday against friendly faces, and road trips to the Chargers, Titans and Chiefs in the first five weeks of the season. For the Colts to duplicate or improve on their surprising success last year (11-7, including a wild-card win in Houston), Luck and a healthy left leg gives them the best shot.