Everything the Colts said about Andrew Luck's injury for two years raises red flags

The offseason shoulder surgery that Andrew Luck underwent appears to have gone well and the quarterback was at the Colts' voluntary practice Monday. While there, Luck revealed when his initial injury actually occurred, an admission that raises some serious questions.

As it turns out, the quarterback spent the 2016 season battling the shoulder injury. And most of 2015 as well -- according to Luck, the injury happened "a couple years ago" in a road game against the Titans ("down there").  

"Yeah, it originally occurred a couple years ago against the Tennessee Titans down there," Luck said. "We sat down after that year and felt like rehab was the way to go and I think that was the absolute correct decision. We did some awesome things and then this year happened obviously and what transpired through this year and sat down after this year and decided that maybe it was time to do surgery on it."

So that's our first date: Sept. 27, 2015

That is a long time ago. The Colts have an explanation, or at least Luck has an explanation, for why it took so long to get surgery. 

"Rest is the wrong word. Rest invokes a connotation of sitting on your butt doing nothing for it. We had a very intense, precise rehab plan that I went through," Luck said. "That was last offseason and it got me to a point where I could play good football and then certain things happened in games that you cannot control -- sort of re-aggravations. We decided at the end of this year, with all the information that we compiled, that this was the best way moving forward. I have no regrets on either of those decisions."

Remember that in recent weeks the Panthers have been blasted for not immediately having Cam Newton undergo surgery until April for an injury suffered in November. It appears the Colts fall into the same category and might very well be worse offenders, but there isn't any outrage here because Luck is ready now? Maybe a January surgery cures any concerns for the coming year.

Anyway, back to the timeline. Remember that Luck didn't just deal with a shoulder injury in 2015. He also suffered a lacerated kidney against the Broncos, an injury that was akin to being involved in a car crash.

That injury occurred on: Nov. 8, 2015

Luck was slated to return to the team within 2-6 weeks after that injury, but the Colts eventually shut him down for the season, which resulted in an 8-8 finish and Indy missing the playoffs. Shortly after that season ended, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star reported that Luck came back from the initial shoulder injury too quickly.

Luck, according to Holder's account, was still battling pain in his shoulder when he came back, suffered injuries to his rib cartilage because he returned too early, was forced to take pain-killing injections, and was "quite limited by the injury, which impacted his throwing motion and likely his accuracy."

howtowatchweek14cbsallaccess.jpg
Andrew Luck says he initially injured his shoulder early in the 2015 season. USATSI

So that injury he suffered in September -- the same one he's recovering from now -- almost certainly led to the November injury. Luck also pointed out at the time of the report how much it bothers him to sit when he's injured.

"Football players want to play football," Luck said. "You want to be out there playing. You feel like you're letting teammates down. You feel like you're letting people down. You watch [Hasselbeck] and Charlie [Whitehurst] battle and fight and be warriors. I watch Frank Gore playing his butt off week in and week out [and] you want to be out there with those guys. When you can't, it stinks."

This all emerged on: Dec. 31, 2015

At this point the Colts and Luck decided to engage in the aggressive rehabilitation process, rather than try to fix the shoulder via offseason surgery. But even by the middle of April 2016, Luck admitted he still wasn't healthy

One year ago, to be exact: April 18, 2016.

This was also sort of lost in the maw of the offseason, however, thanks to football not being prominent and Luck and the Colts agreeing on a blockbuster contract that made him the richest quarterback in all the land. 

That contract was signed on: June 29, 2016

I wrote the story about the contract details and didn't even mention his shoulder once. It was sort of a non-story, because everyone expected he would be healthy by the time the season started with a full offseason of rest. 

And why would we worry -- at the start of training camp in 2016 Luck said he felt "great."

"I feel great. I feel as good as I've ever ... felt going into a training camp," Luck said. "Like any football player, any NFL player you come out of the season not feeling so good. That's why you have an offseason, to get back in shape, to work those kinks out. 

"Feel great and can't wait to go."

Training camp started on: July 26, 2016

By at least one account Luck had an "uneven" training camp, which should have been a red flag. A much bigger red flag? Luck showing up on the Week 1 injury report with a shoulder injury. 

That happened on: Sept. 7, 2016.

Despite that, Chuck Pagano said "Andrew is fine." 

Ryan Grigson said Luck being listed doesn't mean what people thinks it means.

"That's another thing where people don't have a league-wide perspective on how the league works a lot of times," Grigson said at the time. "I mean, it's no different from other quarterbacks in the league that say they're limited and they get rest just like Robert Mathis gets rest or other players."

Grigson also denied that Luck was dealing with any sort of injury and that people were trying to look "for something that's not there."

"No. He's all good. I mean the guy's thrown a zillion balls. The media's seen it. [He was] in Anderson day in and day out throwing a ton of balls with a lot of velocity -- even knocking some guys over," Grigson said. "I don't know. I guess you could sit there and look for something that's not there, but I'm just saying he's going to be ready for the game this weekend, and we have a plan that we think's best for him, and one he feels good about, and that's what we're doing."

So we have a major shoulder injury that helped cause other major injuries that helped knock the franchise quarterback out for almost half the season. Then he abruptly shows up on the injury report before the start of the season with the same shoulder injury and then in October, with the Colts in London to play the Jaguars, owner Jim Irsay dismissed the injury as something that just "disappears into the woodwork" when he wins a Super Bowl

HUH?

Take away the weird nature of an MVP causing a shoulder injury to evaporate like a puff of smoke and don't miss the part about "no surgeries planned."

Irsay said this in: October 2016.

Let's fast forward a bit, because Luck dealt with a ton of injuries in 2016, including a concussion in the latter part of the season that kept him out of the Thanksgiving loss to the Steelers. Through the course of the season, Luck was a full practice participant in just half of the team's practices because of injuries (including his shoulder) according to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com. All told he dealt with a "right shoulder, right elbow, right thumb, left ankle and a concussion."

(Aside: Man, that's a lot of injuries to things that are part of/attached to his right arm. You know, the one he uses to throw all those footballs.)

After the 2016 season ended, this time again in a disappointing 8-8 finish and no playoffs, Luck was asked about his shoulder.  

Luck said that on: Jan. 2, 2017.

And then 17 days later ... he had already undergone surgery.

The whole timeline is bizarrely convoluted. 

And it's made even more odd because Luck spent the 2016 season dealing with issues related to the shoulder injury.

"There were a couple times during the year where I would get hit in an awkward position and an awkward way and it wouldn't feel great and it would be a taxing effort to get ready for that next week and the next week," Luck said. "I didn't feel like I could go through that productively or go through that and be productive as a quarterback, specifically with my right shoulder."

As soon as Luck underwent the surgery, Irsay said the same thing.

"I don't think people realized how much he had to work to get ready to play each week," Irsay said via Colts.com. "He really had to work hard last year and it was very mentally draining to get ready."

And the way Irsay said the Colts wouldn't be rushing Luck back almost implied that they wouldn't be doing so this time around. 

"We are not going to be rushing him," Irsay said. "We are going to make sure, obviously, that the shoulder has to be ready and the doctors are going to give full approval before he starts putting real reps on it and that sort of thing."

If the surgery ultimately fixes Luck's shoulder and gets him playing at an MVP level, this was the right move to make. It's possible the Colts regret not doing it last offseason given how this has played out. But the entire convoluted timeline sure seems like a situation where the team was in denial about how injured their star quarterback was for about two years.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories