The Indianapolis Colts finally have Andrew Luck back after the quarterback missed the entire 2017 season. Jacoby Brissett played OK as the team’s starter in Luck’s place, but the Colts were undeniably worse without the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on the field.
His absence had been somewhat of a mystery. Luck underwent surgery in January 2017, which was described by Colts owner Jim Irsay as an outpatient procedure that wouldn’t threaten the regular season. However, it clearly became a more significant issue than that.
Luck finally returned to the field in 2018, almost three years after he was hurt in a game against the Tennessee Titans. Here’s Luck’s injury history since:
Sept. 27, 2015 — Sprained shoulder
When exactly Luck was injured is hard to tell, because the Colts quarterback never came out of a Week 3 game against the Tennessee Titans. He even finished that game by throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to dig the Colts out of a 27-14 hole and lead the team to a 35-33 win.
It was clear, though, that the quarterback wasn’t right.
Luck is definitely hurting. Not good. pic.twitter.com/OVnylpiNqy— Todd Curry (@currytk) September 27, 2015
The Colts checked out Luck’s right shoulder and found no structural damage, but the quarterback still sat out the team’s next two games. He returned in Week 6 and threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions against the Patriots.
While he appeared to be over what looked like a minor shoulder injury, Luck admitted in 2017 that the shoulder problems he’s still struggling with first started with that September 2015 game against the Titans.
Nov. 8, 2015 — Lacerated kidney plus multiple muscle pulls in his abdomen
A couple of days after a 27-24 win over the Denver Broncos, the Colts announced Luck would miss two-six weeks with abdominal injuries. While he never came out of that game either, it’s believed that it happened during the first play of the fourth quarter when he absorbed hits from defensive tackle Vance Walker and linebacker Danny Trevathan.
"The injuries happened at the end of an early fourth quarter scramble when Andrew was doing everything he could to get us the win," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said in the team's press release. "Andrew was sore after the game and was feeling a little worse Monday afternoon so we sent him to get tests."
Luck did not return before the season ended and the Colts finished 8-8.
Sept. 1, 2016 — Frayed labrum in preseason
A few days before the beginning of the 2016 season, there was a report that Luck was dealing with “some labrum fraying” and the Colts were trying to dial back his throwing reps in practice.
The Colts’ general manager at the time, Ryan Grigson, denied the report.
"No. He's all good," Grigson said, according to Colts.com. "I mean the guy's thrown a zillion balls. The media's seen it.”
About a month into the 2016 season, Luck had consistently appeared on the injury report as a limited participant, typically on Thursdays. But the team continued to brush off concerns.
“There isn’t some kind of chronic shoulder injury or anything like that, I promise you,” Irsay told the Indianapolis Star before a Week 4 game in London. “There are no surgeries planned. He is fine and the shoulder is something that just disappears into the woodwork when he wins his next MVP or when he wins a Super Bowl.”
Luck played in 15 games that season, only missing one in November due to a concussion. Despite being on the injury report on a weekly basis, Luck completed a career-best 63.5 percent of his passes with 31 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 96.4 passer rating that was No. 9 in the NFL among starting quarterbacks.
Jan. 19, 2017 — Shoulder surgery
With the injury never really slowing Luck or keeping him out of action, the quick surgery to repair the problem shortly after the end of the 2016 season didn’t raise many red flags. It wasn’t until the beginning of training camp that concern crept in.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard said from the start that the plan wasn’t to have Luck begin the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. He held that promise by pulling the quarterback from the list on Sept. 2 after Luck passed a physical.
If Luck hadn’t been taken off the list before the beginning of the regular season, he would’ve been ineligible to play in the first six weeks of the season. With Luck already ruled out for Week 6, the transaction didn’t do much.
October 2017 — Return to practice
Nearly nine months after his surgery, the Colts finally began the process of working Luck back into the swing of practice.
“We'll slowly start working him back into practice this week,” Ballard said on a radio show Oct. 2, via ESPN. “We'll see how much he gets. But we've got a plan in place to where we want him to start getting him reps, and then in time, as we can get him incorporated back into team work and all that, we'll get him back on the field.”
Video of Luck’s first practices showed him throwing tentatively and slowly. More than a week into his return to the practice fields, the Colts tweeted a video that showed Luck throwing deep passes much more comfortably.
The deep passes look smooth, but what the video doesn’t show is Luck throwing with much velocity. That, and Luck’s confidence in his shoulder, will be the final steps before he makes his return.
He has already has had one setback:
Chris Ballard is here... Luck won't practice today or this week. Is having some soreness and took a cortisone shot to address it.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) October 18, 2017
But the Colts aren’t ready to put him on IR, and want to play him this season if he’s healthy enough.
Things don’t look great, though.
Andrew Luck started feeling pain after throwing couple weeks ago so he's seeking further opinions to figure why still in pain— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) October 29, 2017
Until he’s healthy enough to return — and it may be a while — it’ll be up to Brissett to keep the Colts afloat in the AFC South race.
Nov. 2, 2017 — Colts finally place Luck on IR
“I wish I was better and 100 percent this season, but that’s not the case," Luck said. "I know I’ll be better from this. I know I’ll be a better quarterback, teammate, person and player from this, and I’m excited for the future."
The team has dragged this thing out, but it’s clear Luck isn’t healthy enough to play. The Colts will look to Brissett to carry the team for the rest of the season.
Nov. 5, 2017 — Luck advised not to throw for 2-3 months to focus on rehab
After luck was placed on IR earlier in the week, it was reported that he was advised to not throw for months in order to focus on his rehab.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, there’s also a chance he could have another surgery:
First, most recommendations have Luck taking a few months off from throwing -- likely two to three months to focus solely on rehab. At this point, no one has recommended another surgery, though it remains a possibility.
While the team also expects him back in 2018, they’re going to take a hard look at the upcoming quarterbacks in college:
Andrew Luck will be re-evaluated by docs again in Dec. Colts do expect him back in '18, love Jacoby Brissett but not ignoring QB draft class— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) November 5, 2017
May 23, 2018 — Luck attends official team activities, doesn’t throw
Luck is participating in the team’s first preseason practices, but there don’t seem to be any plans to have him throw anytime soon.
No update on Andrew Luck. Not throwing. Went through early work at OTAs then head to indoor facility to further work. Frank Reich not certain if Luck will throw before end of offseason work in mid-June. Also not concerned.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) May 23, 2018
June 12, 2018 — Luck throws at practice
A week after new Colts coach Frank Reich told reporters Luck was getting “real close” to being ready to throw a football again, it finally happened at one of the team’s last OTAs of the year.
The moment was downplayed by the Colts who tweeted the video with the caption “Another step closer.” The ball was a lighter, smaller football, although Luck told reporters after that he has thrown an NFL ball in recent weeks.
Regardless, it was a significant moment Tuesday, as it was the first time Luck has thrown in a practice since October.
Luck said his goal is to participate fully in training camp.
July 20, 2018 — Luck is a go for training camp
The Colts still plan to be cautious with Luck, but general manager Chris Ballard said that the quarterback is ready to participate when the team reports for training camp.
Big news: #Colts GM Chris Ballard tells reporters that QB Andrew Luck is “good to go” for training camp. No limitations when he’s out there, but won’t throw for 7 days straight. Still, huge.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 20, 2018
Aug. 9, 2018: Luck plays in the preseason, his first game action in 585 days
Luck returned to the field for the first time since Week 17 of the 2016 season. Although it was a preseason matchup, Luck showed he could take a hit (sacked once) and that he still had an arm (6 of 9 for 64 yards):
Sept. 9, 2018: Andrew Luck plays in his first regular season game since January 2017
In Week 1, Luck made his first regular season appearance in more than 20 months. He completed just over 73 percent of his passes (39 of 53) for 319 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He had a chance to lead a potential game-winning drive against the Bengals, until tight end Jack Doyle’s fumble helped give Cincinnati a 34-23 win.