Published On: Fri, Aug 10th, 2018

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts quarterback, healthy after first game since 2016

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SEATTLE — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t get hit once in his first game in 19 months. He got hit twice. The best part about both of those hits was that Luck immediately got up without having any issues with his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Luck, playing his first game since Week 17 of the 2016 season, led the Colts on scoring drives that both ended with field goals against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday.

“It was a little bit of the pressure was off, in a sense, and I really had fun,” Luck said. “I really enjoyed it. I didn’t quite know if I would have this much again playing football.”

Thursday’s preseason game was arguably the biggest contest for the Colts since Luck played in his first as a rookie in 2012. Luck spent Thursday morning going for a walk and even had some espresso while dealing with nervousness.

For Luck, the game wasn’t about throwing touchdowns, throwing for a lot of yards or having 30 pass attempts. It was about seeing him make continued progress.

Luck had passed every test he faced during training camp while continuing his journey back from missing the 2017 season due to a right-shoulder injury he originally suffered in Week 3 of 2015. But the quarterback — and the rest of the organization — wanted to see how he would perform when he wasn’t wearing the red non-contact jersey in practice and he had to face a defense that could hit him. The Colts wanted Luck to work on his rhythm, have his game-day adrenaline flowing again, and take a hit or two in his first game in 585 days.

He passed each one of those tests.

“The first play is always a little nerve-wracking in any game, in a sense, but especially this one,” Luck said. “After that it sort of slowed down and the rhythm, the flow of a huddle, calling a play, knowing where the play clocks are, getting to the line of scrimmage, showing what your queues are, that operations that takes over. For lack of better word, it felt natural.”

Luck took his first hit since facing the Jacksonville Jaguars back in the finale of the 2016 season when he scrambled for a yard Thursday before being taken down by Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. Luck said that was probably the “most excited I have been and will ever be for getting hit” after the play.

Luck, who has been sacked 156 times in his career, was sacked when Joe Haeg, starting in place of the injured Anthony Castonzo (hamstring), was badly beaten off the edge by Seahawks defensive end Rasheem Green. There was no suspense wondering how Luck felt because he got right up. There was no suspense wondering how Luck felt, because he got right up, ran over and high-fived tight end Jack Doyle.

“I think it is nice to maybe to put a couple of questions that linger, as much as you don’t want to, to the back of your mind,” Luck said. “‘Will you be able to take a hit?’ So it eases a little bit of that anxiety of that I kept alive that only maybe game-type action could cure or alleviate, per se.”

New Colts coach Frank Reich didn’t play it conservatively by pounding the ball on the ground to protect Luck. He mixed it up with some quick throws and some intermediate throws down the field while having a clean pocket up the middle to work with. The Colts attempted seven passes during their 12-play, 60-yard opening drive that ended with an Adam Vinatieri 33-yard field goal.

The plan going in was for Luck not to play more than a quarter. That changed when the first quarter finished with Luck in the middle of leading the Colts down the field again. That drive ended with another field goal, but it also featured Luck looking comfortable in leading the offense. His night was over after that second series and saw him go 6-of-9 for 64 yards.

“[Luck’s] demeanor was a lot of fun,” Reich said. “The emotions were flowing. He was pretty jacked up. So it was fun to see that.”

A part of the Colts’ offensive game that was absent was deep throws down the field, something Luck has excelled at throughout his career. The 17-yard completion Luck made to running back Marlon Mack was off a quick pass in the flat.

“To be frank, I’ve been more comfortable with the intermediate and short game,” Luck said. “The deep game is something we’re going to have to work on and we will. It’s going to be a big part of our offense. I know it’s been a big part of every successful year we’ve had. I’m excited for that. I don’t feel like I have a physical limitation holding me back. I think I’ve proven to myself that I can start to make these throws and to work on them. That’s going to be another focus.”

Another “mile post” has been reached for Luck. The Colts are likely to increase Luck’s playing time in each of the next two preseason games. He’ll start their Week 1 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, barring any kind of setback.

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