INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts intend to stick to the long-term plan.
Even if it means going into the regular season without Andrew Luck.
While they believe their biggest investment will be completely healthy eventually and that Luck provides their best chance to win now and into the future, they're not going to rush Luck back.
And they're not looking for a quick fix after a demoralizing 24-10 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
"I can't say unequivocally that he (Luck) will be ready for the Rams game," team owner Jim Irsay said. "But I can say I feel very confident that he will be ready to start the season."
Luck is on the Colts physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from offseason surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
The Colts have repeatedly said they're optimistic Luck could open the regular season Sept. 10 at the Los Angeles Rams. That part hasn't changed.
But team officials have been mostly restrained about providing specific timetables or updates about exactly what Luck is doing in rehab.
On July 24, new general manager Chris Ballard said Luck started throwing the previous week. Six days later, Luck told reporters only that he had started the throwing process with a tennis ball.
That was the last big update until Sunday.
First, Ballard told the local TV broadcast that Luck's strength levels are measuring slightly better than "at any point last year" when Luck was playing through the injury.
Irsay offered another perspective.
"He isn't throwing a football as strong as he wants to because we won't let him," Irsay said. "But we are very disciplined. We know this is a 12-year process, a future that's 10, 12, hopefully 14 years. But we will not deviate from being disciplined in our process on how the doctors feel, on how Andrew feels."
Indy's abysmal preseason opener showed just how much it needs Luck on the field.
The three other quarterbacks — Scott Tolzien, Phillip Walker and Stephen Morris — were a combined 24 of 45 for 178 yards and were sacked five times. The Colts finished with 230 total yards, 90 of which came on the game's final series, and just 14 first downs.
It's enough to at least cause consternation among fans and stir the debate over whether Indy needs to find a solution.
"Obviously, it doesn't all fall on one guy," coach Chuck Pagano said. "But collectively, as a unit, we've got to be better and we've got a long way to go."
Apparently, the Colts already have discussed possible replacements.
Irsay acknowledged the team pursued and nearly agreed to terms with an unnamed veteran quarterback earlier this summer.
"We came semi-close to bringing in a quarterback in his mid-30s," Irsay said. "We had a number (of dollars) but he wanted more than we were willing to give. It wasn't (Colin) Kaepernick."
The sooner Luck returns, the sooner the speculation will end.
And it does appear he may be getting closer to practicing.
Luck was seen at three of Indy's past six practices and was on the field again Sunday, too.
But he still must show the team doctors he's healthy enough to participate before he can even contemplate playing in a game.
"He said, 'Jim, I know I'm going to be even a better quarterback than I've ever been before. I just don't know when,'" Irsay said. "That could be Sept. 10, that could be September 20. We'll see."
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