Inside Colts camp: Andrew Luck faces reality of calf injury, a potential rookie breakout and more
'I did a disservice to myself by saying I would be ready,' Luck said about the start of camp
WESTFIELD, Indiana -- Andrew Luck apologized sincerely to the media assembled around the practice field for being later than expected to his impromptu press conference (he was lifting), and then spent about 15 minutes answering medical questions about a calf strain as candidly as possible, and then spent time chatting with some elderly fans at camp for "Grandparent's Day," and then apologized to the media again on his way off the field.
He is as wholesome as it gets. And, in admitting that his calf was not healing as expected, that he was in fact in pain and was going to need some extended rest, Luck appeared truly sorry that he hadn't met his publicly stated expectation of being good as new for training camp. It took only three limited sessions for it to be apparent that was not the case.
"I did a disservice to myself by saying I would be ready," Luck said after missing Tuesday's practice, a palpable sense he felt as if he had let people down, but also acknowledging that after going through years of shoulder issues he has learned to be brutally honest about what is going on with his body. And, for the Colts franchise, fans and anyone with a vested stake in what could be a Hall of Fame career, that's a very good thing.
There was no sense in aggravating this strain at all in July. Makes no sense. There is still ample time to focus on a Week 1 timeline, and I would expect that you see virtually nothing of the quarterback in the preseason schedule. We also know that Luck has a ridiculous pain threshold along with a high will to play and desire to win, and if there had been a game of any magnitude on that Tuesday afternoon, I don't think the Colts could have kept him out of it.
"I've played in games with much more pain," Luck conceded.
So what exactly are we to make of all of this?
Well, I wouldn't start freaking out. Yes, this has dragged on more than expected, but now is also the time for extreme caution. Luck can still throw from a stationary position. His shoulder is as good as new, and he is participating in walkthroughs and is in great spirits. He was confident this will be behind him in September, and while no one knows if it will be aggravated down the line, no one was sweating it all that much, either.
I've seen what it's like when bad news comes down, and the looks on the general manager's face and the sound of the coach's voice. This is not that. No one is more judicious in his rehab and more diligent in his recovery, and I expect Luck to be good to go when it really matters.
"We feel great," head coach Frank Reich told me about Luck's prospects. "Shoot, he has pain. He wasn't out here, so it's something. So I'm not going to dismiss it like it's nothing, because if it was nothing he'd be out here. But we're optimistic and we know he's doing everything he can do to get this thing 100 percent."
If Luck is himself, this team could be sitting with the top seed in the AFC a few months from now.
Look out for this rookie wide receiver
As you make the rounds this time of year, there are always whispers from coaches and execs about a young player flashing well, but rarely do hear a ton of overt, on-the-record praise so early. Not so in the case of the Colts and second-round pick Paris Campbell.
In a draft used almost exclusive to bolster the defense, the Ohio State speedster was the only high selection used on offense (one of three second-round picks), and the brass here believes he is primed to make an immediate impact.
"It is early, but the early indicators are really positive," Reich told me. "And we felt good about those coming in. He's really smart. He's a pro. He's really talented and obviously we know about his speed. But what attracted him to us was not just his speed but we felt like he had other qualities and that he could be a whole wide receiver and not just a gadget guy. And we've seen evidence of that early on."
A big boost off the edge
Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard should form a very productive set of ends on this defense. Both have made a very good first impression, and with all of the linebackers shrewd GM Chris Ballard has drafted the past two years (five by my count, including in the second, third and fifth round a few months back), they have plenty of flexibility to toggle between 4-3 and 3-4 looks as needed.
Second-round pick Ben Banogu is listed as a linebacker, but I get the sense he may get a shot to rush the passer with his hand down in certain sets, too. Pass rush is still something the Colts seek and if they do make a free agent splash next offseason, or make a trade up, my hunch it would be with that in mind.
More from Colts camp
- Expect more big things from Marlon Mack. He is healthy and becoming a more versatile back, and he looks very comfortable in this offense. "Things are really starting to click now," he told me. "We should know how things work and how this offense works now after one year."
- A deep fantasy sleeper: second year wide receiver Deon Cain. The Colts loved him this time a year ago -- when frankly they didn't have nearly as many receiving options -- but he tore his ACL and missed the season. It may take him until the second half of the season to be as explosive as possible, but he remains highly-regarded here.
- The ageless Adam Vinatieri -- in Year 24 -- is in great shape, as you might expect, and still trying to perfect his craft. He recalled how different camp is now, with heart monitors and, yes, urine monitors, and the evolution of sports science and now kicking every other day, as opposed to twice a day for weeks on end. "We've got a certain amount of kicks we try to get in every other day," he noted with a smile, saying his rookie year with the Pats he thinks they went twice a day for 12 days straight before they got a day off.
- Reich on the template he and Ballard were able to establish last year, reaching the playoffs in what most of the NFL thought would be a rebuilding year: "It was really cool, and what it's really all about is the belief in one another. It's buying in, and the good news is as Chris and I talk about building this team, they are buying into things they already believe in. if you have to convince people about what's right and what your philosophy is, that's probably not the right way to go. So let's spend the time on the front-end and get guys -- we know what our philosophy is as a football team and as an organization. So let's try to match that up with the players on the front end, and I think that's what happened."
- Eric Ebron still tends to drop the ball, which makes the return of tight end Jack Doyle from injury interesting. There is ample opportunity to run two-tight end sets, and I have a feeling Ebron will be mostly a red-zone weapon with all of the potential targets in this offense now.
- This secondary lacks household names but looks darn good right now. It's immensely improved over the unit Ballard inherited in 2018. But then again, so is basically the entire roster. And with such a low payroll and seemingly infinite cap space, the future looks incredibly bright.
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