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INDIANAPOLIS – When Colts fans woke up Tuesday morning, they thought their quarterback’s new ailment was a bone issue in his lower left leg.
As they go to bed on Tuesday night, it’s now a ‘high ankle’ issue that has the Colts uncertain if they even have the complete understanding of what is causing the continued pain for their franchise quarterback.
On Tuesday night, Colts general manager Chris Ballard held an emergency conference call to try and clarify the Luck injury situation, which has had the quarterback sidelined for 24 of the 27 practices this offseason.
Ballard said it’s “most likely” Luck will not play in the 2019 preseason, as the Colts first try to control the persistent pain issue in No. 12, before the QB even thinks about returning to practice.
With three and a half weeks to go until the regular season opener, the Colts are hopeful they have finally found the reason Luck has had discomfort since a March MRI.
Here are Ballard’s comments from Tuesday night:
–Opening statement: “From the start, he’s been dealing with a calf injury, all in March and through camp. He was dealing with a calf, and then a little area below his calf, which Andrew kind of referred to as a lower leg (two weeks ago), where he was feeling some pain, kind of in the ankle area. The injury wasn’t getting better. He hasn’t been practicing. So in the course of dealing with this calf injury, it appears now we’ve got an ankle issue. Because the injury wasn’t getting better, we wanted to explore the area around the lower leg, that Mr. Irsay was referring to as the bone. It’s called the os trigonum. We thought that might have something to do with it. But after last night, after Mr. Irsay spoke, that doesn’t appear to be the issue, so we shifted our focus to another area. We tested his ankle yesterday (Monday) with a scan. He went and saw a specialist. And it led us to an area on the front of the ankle that needs to be addressed. It’s kind of high ankle-ish. And that’s potentially referring to the posterior pain he’s getting in the posterior ankle, up by the calf and that’s why it’s happening. We’ve been treating the calf all along and even treating the lower part of this and then getting the test done on the os trigonum, to make sure that wasn’t the issue, which we don’t think it is right now, led us to the front of the ankle.”
–If Luck has an ‘os trigonum’: “Yes. And it’s not loose, so he’s good there.”
-What’s the implication of the ‘os trigoum’: “Let me walk you through a couple of things. We got an MRI done in March on the calf, which definitely had a strain. And we knew that. Then in May, he was still having that pain right below the calf. So we said, ‘Okay, let’s test it.’ To test that, you go into your specialist and they give you a numbing shot and if it makes you feel automatically better, well then there’s no doubt that that’s what it is. Well, that wasn’t the case. There was maybe a little relief but not a lot of relief. At that point, we don’t think that’s what it is. We will keep moving down, after X-rays in May down the same path. So then we get to camp, and we say, ‘Okay, we will work him back in slowly and see where we go, like we do with the rest of our guys.’ Day Three (which was actually Day Four of practice), he comes to us and says, ‘I’m still having pain, in my calf and in that same area, I’m still having pain.’ That’s when we said, ‘Let’s back off. Get it calmed down.’ It wasn’t until a couple of days ago, when we said, ‘You know what, we need to start exploring other parts and eliminating.’”
–On the process going forward: “We are just going to continue to rehab. We are going to change some things up with his rehab and try to get moving forward.”
-Is the start of the regular season in jeopardy for Luck: “We are three and a half weeks away from the start of the regular season, so I’m not ready to say that. No.”
-What is Luck’s level of pain? Can he play with this? “Well, he’s not practicing now. So there’s enough pain where he’s not practicing. That’s what we have to get under control. Once we get that under control, then we can move forward. There’s no question he had a calf. And he had a calf, but the lower part is more of an ankle issue. Once we get that under control, we think we can help with the pain.”
-On Jim Irsay’s comments about the bone issue for Luck: “Mr. Irsay spoke. And, look, when we gave (Luck) the shot in May and he got a little relief, but not what most patients who do it get it, get full relief and just know. So it was still like, ‘Well, maybe that’s what’s causing the pain right below his calf.’ Then once they went in with another specialist, it turned out to be in the posterior ankle, that we think is causing that pain.”
-On when this first happened: “I think it’s a cumulative thing through the years. Andrew has had some ankle issues, with his left one, for a while. I think it’s just kind of a cumulative thing. I think (the previous ankle issues) exasperated the cumulative effect.”
-On getting a team ready for the season opener, no matter the health of Luck: “Andrew will even tell you that I think he needs a certain amount of practice in. Andrew is pretty special as a player. All players need reps. He knows that. He knows he needs to get out there and get his reps. So we will play that day-by-day. We have three and a half weeks. We will tell you when we think the shift is going to happen, if that happens. Look, this is not 2017. I’ve thought about this a lot. When I first came into the door, one of the things we talked about was building a team and it wasn’t going to be just about one guy. Look, I understand the importance of Andrew Luck. You kidding me? This guy is one of the top-5 quarterbacks in the league. But we also got another quarterback we like, in Jacoby Brissett. To me, that’s part of building a team. You have to be able to handle when things don’t go the way you planned them out to be. I think if you ask Andrew, if you ask any of us, do we wish he would have gone through the spring and been practicing? Yeah, absolutely. But that’s not just where we are at. This is where we are at. We think we have a handle on it and we will treat it, move forward and deal with whatever we have to moving forward.”
-On Luck playing in the preseason: “Coming into (this offseason), we were going to limit his play time in the preseason anyways. As of right now, I’m telling you most likely he doesn’t play in the preseason.”
-On if Ballard feels they know the issue and can solve this pain and figure it out: “It’s something we think we’ve found it, but, you know, you hope you found what the cause is. Is there a 100 percent guarantee? No. But we think we have. So we will move forward and rehab it the way we think we need to rehab it.”
-On when the ankle became an issue: “The calf, and then right below…remember Andrew referenced it when he talked to you all, he had a lower leg. He kind of referenced it as a lower leg. That’s why in May, when we did the X-rays, we were kind of trying to figure out, ‘Okay, is this a calf? Is it a lower leg? What’s the issue?’ We thought at that point, once we tested him for the os trigonum, that we didn’t think it was it. We weren’t 100 percent sure. But he didn’t light up on the test. So we just kept moving forward that this was a calf issue. Most of his pain is right below the calf, kind of ankle-ish, up a little bit. Remember, everyone kind of focused on the Achilles. And it’s not the Achilles.”
-On what is Luck is doing rehab wise right now movement wise: “So the issue right now is the side-to-side stuff and kind of the rolling of the ankle. Anything front, back and forth, is pretty good. Standing there and throwing is good. It’s the moving in the pocket, those are the kinds of things we have to get him better at. Look, if you know Andrew, this guy works, now. He freaking works.”
-On if the Colts feel Luck could play Week 1 and not have to deal with it all season long: “We will play that kind of week-by-week, but we hope to get it (solved). As an organization, we won’t put any player out there that can’t perform at a high level. I’m just not. I’m not going to put players at risk. If we feel comfortable, Frank and I and our staff, if we feel comfortable that he can play, then he’ll play.”
-On Ballard’s level of confidence right now in Luck being ready for Week 1: “Well, I’ll say this, I have confidence in our team and I have confidence in the team that we’ll put out there versus the Chargers. But I understand everyone wants immediate answers and it’s hard sometimes when you are dealing with injuries. Frank and I have spoke several times. And Andrew has spoke a few times. We are giving you the information that we have at this moment. And that’s the best we can do.”
–On Ballard not seeming to be in full panic mode with how long this has lingered: “I think we have a pretty good football team. We are young, but I think we have a pretty good football team. We like Jacoby Brissett also and I trust Andrew. I trust Andrew and I know he’s going to do everything he can in his power to get back. When he does, he does. There’s all kinds of cases, where teams win when the starter doesn’t play every game. You have to be able to put yourself in position to do that. Things are not always to go the way in the season that you think they’re going to go. And when you get thrown a road block or an obstacle, you have to be able to overcome it. We have to be able to overcome them as an organization and a team.”
-On if Luck was comfortable playing at 85-90 percent, would the team be? “If he can function, yes. And if his pain is under control and he can protect himself and play good, yes.”
-On if Luck playing would risk further injury, or is it too early to determine that? ”It’s too early. It’s too early.”