Remember: It wasn’t until January 2017, when owner Jim Irsay tweeted about Luck’s recent surgery, that we learned the true extent of what had been plaguing No. 12 for the previous year and a half. Then Luck was supposed to be recovered by training camp 2017 … and then by the beginning of the regular season … and then in late May 2018, new head coach Frank Reich had to confront the fact that Luck still wasn’t throwing. Reich told the press: “I’m not worried at all.”
All that fan skepticism (panic?) just might be justified.
Orthopedic surgeon Jon Hyman doesn’t know the particulars of Luck’s shoulder surgery, but he’s well-versed with the procedure, which he says should take no more than six to nine months of recovery time. “For an athlete of his caliber, over a year out from surgery—if he’s not back to full participation and throwing at this point, that’s a really bad sign,” says Hyman, who has served as team physician for the Atlanta Falcons and Hawks. “If I was a Colts fan, I would be really disturbed.”
At least the guy has been out and about—that’s a good sign, right?
The Colts captain has remained active in the community throughout this ordeal, like when he rather stoically interviewed author John Green at a WFYI event to promote “The Great American Read.” Or when he was “throwing” toy fruits and vegetables with kids at The Children’s Museum’s Sports Legends Experience in May. No reports on the accuracy or spiral of his plastic broccoli toss.
But he could disappear soon.
Hyman wouldn’t be surprised if Luck leaves the country, trying just about everything to get healthy without going back under the knife. That could include injections of stem cells or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or who knows. “If you’re not recovering the way you expect, you start flying all over the world to find different tinctures and potions from China to Korea to Africa to try and find a way to fix this without going back in [for surgery],” says Hyman.
He might play worse.
There are myriad possible scenarios if Luck does make it back to the field, but almost none of them involve him being the exact player he was before the injury. As ESPN The Magazine NFL insider Seth Wickersham points out, the rest of the league—both the players and the game itself—has been evolving over the past year-plus that Luck’s been sitting out. Even if Luck’s pluck is fully restored, he might have missed a step or two while convalescing.
Or he might play better.
On the other hand, Hyman says, Luck could come back rested and eager and better than ever. After all, he points out, Luck was also nagged by a fractured rib and other ailments in 2016, and they’ve had plenty of time to heal.
Don’t count on a Hail Mary.
Despite the once-in-a-generation expectations everyone put on Luck when he was drafted, we still don’t know exactly how good he is or could be. “He’s a terrific leader and face of the team and is as tough as they come and has engineered some good wins,” says Wickersham. “But he seemed to have plateaued. We don’t know how much of that was due to injury, but I think most smart football people would tell you to forget about placing him among the game’s greats and to instead wonder whether he was as consistently good as, say, Matthew Stafford … [Luck] wasn’t among the top three or so quarterbacks [in the NFL] before he sat. How is he supposed to get there, having missed so much time?”
Do count on a class act.
Expect Luck to handle whatever happens with grace. “It’s a steep challenge,” says Wickersham. “Being Luck, he’s aware of the pressure and driven to transcend it.”