Colts QB Andrew Luck spoke to the media yesterday for the first time in a couple of months.
He was raw, emotional, and melancholy as he described the psychological torment that caused him to hop on a plane for The Netherlands. This was not the smiling and occasionally playful Luck we have grown accustomed to since he came to Indianapolis in 2012.
We tend to be suspicious – always looking for subtext. Any vagueness deserves an angry rebuke. We are so skeptical of those in the public eye that if they don’t cop to the worst case scenario, it is assumed they have lied.
That level of paranoia has not so deeply infested my spirit that I can’t take a man at his word when he has never lied to me before (to my knowledge).
It’s more interesting, especially for media people paid by the click or listener, to concoct a narrative that can flimsily be supported by a few well chosen quotes, but the truth is more important when dealing with human beings, no matter their import or income level.
This may not be the hottest take, but I believe it to be true:
Andrew Luck just needed to get the hell out of here. He didn’t need stem cell injections, some radical and exotic treatment pioneered by a dutch orthopedist, or a six-week hashish coma. Luck just needed to clear his head in a place where where he could work with a trainer and not feel like he was letting down his teammates.
Luck needed to go where nobody knew his name, or cared about his shoulder. It’s that simple.
The struggle of rehabbing is substantial. Luck invested in the hope he would be able to return at some point in 2017. That hope motivated him to continue to do the work needed to recover. When it became clear throwing without pain wasn’t going to happen, Luck’s psyche went straight in the crapper.
He went to The Netherlands to reboot mentally while always getting the shoulder right. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Those who don’t believe him might feel very clever for reading between the lines, but the truth is not always clever.
In addition to a track record of truth telling, another reason I believe Luck is that he refused to entertain a question with which he was uncomfortable. If Luck was lying, why not just lie through another answer rather than refuse to answer.
Don’t get me wrong, Luck is not always complete and transparent. He can obfuscate with the best of them. There have been answers given at his locker the last couple of years that were full of words that meant nothing. Yesterday, Luck tried to answer very personal questions asked by virtual strangers as best he could.
Reading the quotes is one thing, and I’ll paste the entire verbatim below, but being there gave additional depth to the psychological torment Luck has dealt with since all hope for playing in 2017 was lost.
At the very least, try reading through the verbatim one time as though you believe him. It’s not the clever or shrewd thing to do, but try it anyway.
Here is the full transcript:
You were shut down on November 2. Can you take us through chronologically what you did, where you went and what treatment you received after that date?
“Yeah. So November 2nd, pretty soon after that I went over to the Netherlands and started doing rehab with the trainer that I’ve worked with in the past and I trust very much. There’s really not much more to it than that. We just rehabbed at a clinic in the Netherlands. Nothing crazy, no injections. Nothing out of the ordinary. A lot of rehab and a lot of work and made a lot of progress.”
Would it be classified as strength training? What would you classify it as?
“Classify. Yeah – rehab, strength training and soft tissue work.”
At what point did you realize you needed to go over to the Netherlands?
“That’s a good question. I think I realized in my mind that it was necessary for me to sort of get away because I was allowing myself to get pulled in too many directions and it was hard for me to keep a singular focus on just getting better and getting better and getting better. I think I allowed myself to become a distraction, which I did not want to be. I think I just needed to keep it simple and that meant getting away. I think it’s been very productive and it’s also nice to be back.”
When you say that you were pulled in different directions, do you mean medically?
“Mentally, and just the ability to focus on getting better every single day if that makes sense.”
Can you compare how your shoulder feels now to how it felt in late September?
“Yeah, no, it feels stronger, more stable, more confident in it. It’s better.”
Last time we saw you, you were making throws on the far sideline. Was it a matter of just taking longer for the soreness to go away?
“I was experiencing pain still. That scared me because I started to sort of remember the previous year and why I had surgery in the first place, because I was feeling pain while doing things. I think that was something that hit my mind and precipitated these events happening.”
Could you have received the same treatment over here in the United States?
“The therapist that I worked with, his resources were over in the Netherlands and clinic and other help. So that’s why – in one specific place. So no, I could not have done what I did there here from some of the people involved aspect of it.”
So not medically?
There are certain procedures you can do over there that you can’t do here.
“Yes, so no medical procedures that were done over there.”
Have you thrown a football recently?
“No, I have not.”
When will you?
“We’re preparing to throw a football, if that makes sense. I’m sort of (on) a progression to get to that point, and a lot of it still has to do with me and getting my strength back to a better level. I still have a ways to go there and I really don’t want to skip any steps along the way. I do not think I need another surgery. I think I’m on the right path. I think I’m on the right progression and am trusting in that. We’re in the process now of sort of preparing to get a football in my hands pretty soon.”
So you’re preparing as if there is no second surgery planned?
Is the only way to know that when you start throwing and the soreness does or does not come back?
“No, I wouldn’t say it’s the only way to know – the surgery. My gut and my feeling tells me that I do not need another surgery. I think I need to work more and more time and to stay on this straight and narrow, if you will. I don’t want it to sound like throwing is the test. I’m doing well and will continue to do well; that’s how I feel today.”
If you had to do this all over again, would you have had surgery sooner?
“That’s a good question and I haven’t thought about that. No, I’m not going to entertain the question because I don’t think it’s healthy to live in the past.”
Coach Pagano mentioned you went through hell in this recovery.
“I don’t know about that.”
It’s been a year since you’ve played a football game, though. What have the last 12-plus months been like for you?
“I’m not going to act like I’m unique. Every NFL player – the injury rate is 100 percent in this league. That’s true. But like any guy who’s injured, it’s not easy to watch your teammates go play. I do realize with football, what I value most out of it are your teammates and going out there and competing with guys, playing against another team and to miss that is difficult. You do not feel like you’re a part of the team. It feels weird, but I don’t feel like I’m a part of this team right now. You can ask any injured guy that’s on IR. We’ve talked about this; you don’t. You just don’t feel like you can contribute. You try and you try to help out, especially when you’re around, you try to help out Jacoby (Brissett) or the other quarterbacks or the guys. It’s just an odd feeling. So it’s not been fun and it’s not been easy. Certainly having a purpose and being able to work towards that purpose, which for me is getting healthy, is important. I think that’s also part of the reason why I needed to get away was to be able to focus on that. I think 100 percent. Still a lot to do and a lot to learn, but I don’t want to act like I’m the only one who has ever gone through an injury or a surgery in this league because I know I’m not.”
Do you expect to throw by the end of January? Do you have a timeframe for when you would like to start throwing?
“Yeah, well, I’d like to start as soon as I can. I know it’s a vague answer. That means me feeling physically confident enough to get going. We’re on a progression; I’m not going to put a date on it. I think it’s unfair to myself; I think it’s unfair to anybody else involved. So as soon as I can.”
Are you concerned that if you wait any bit longer the start of the 2018 season could be in jeopardy for you?
“No, I don’t see that being in jeopardy at all.”
We’re always looking for timetables. Are you optimistic as you can be for OTAs, training camp – all the regular offseason events, you will be ready to go?
“I’m very optimistic. I feel really good today. I do not think I need another surgery. I believe in the process I’m in right now. I’ve had great help, so I hope to continue to get better. Yeah, I plan on being ready for everything.”
“Everything official; NFL offseason schedule.”
So maybe April?
“Is that a timeline (Mike) Chappell (laughs)? Yes, I plan on being ready.”
Last time we saw you, you were improving, throwing and looking to return this season. What was your initial reaction when they put you on IR?
“I understood. A couple times you look in the mirror and realize that realistically, there was not a chance for me to play when we figured out around that time of the year. It was weird and tough to sort of switch gears from, ‘I’m preparing to get better, to play in this season and to help the team.’ To then switch to, ‘Okay, now, I’m just preparing to get healthy in general.’ It was difficult to come to terms with, but like anything, you move on and the focus sort of switched maybe a little bit then, yeah.”
You mentioned that you didn’t feel like a part of the team. Outside of rehabbing, what were you doing to keep your sanity mentally?
“In the past eight weeks? Yeah, live a normal life, I guess. We were rehabbing eight hours a day. You put work in, be normal, clean up, vacuum, do what my girlfriend says, go to the store, get food, cook, watch TV, try and pick up some Dutch – which is a weird language. Yeah, live a normal life I guess.”
Why do you think the recovery has taken so long?
“I don’t know. I wish I could tell you because that would mean I could tell myself. I think that as a surgery on a shoulder, from what I understand, surgeries and people come out different from them with different feelings from them. I’m very happy with the surgery. It did what it needed to do. Maybe there are some other things that I have to work through that is outside of the average and that’s okay. I’ll keep working through them.”
What was the low point?
“There was a time, probably a couple weeks in to being away from here, in early December that was pretty difficult for me to sort of see the positive in things. Got through that and managed to see the positive in things a little more now.”
Did you watch the games?
“I watched what I could.”
What was it like watching the games from across the world?
“It was weird; it was really weird. It’s hard to describe. It’s like watching one of your siblings play a sport. You get really nervous and you feel quite helpless because you have zero control over what goes on and coming to terms with having zero control over what goes on I think was important for me in that regard.”
I can imagine as a quarterback, it was very difficult.
“Yeah, I think generally most guys are control freaks that play that position. Sort of letting go is one of the things I’ve had to learn and learning that has helped me a little more through this process. But yeah, watching was weird.”
Did it ever cross your mind that you hoped to get back to football? Did you start to question if you would ever be the same player? With your right arm, it’s what got you to the NFL.
“I hope it was more than just my right arm for the reason I’m in the NFL. But no, I’ve never entertained the thoughts. I assume what you’re saying is career-ending. Yeah sure, it’s crossed my mind. But I don’t think that at all. At all.”
The owner mentioned that some of the problems might be between your ears. Is there some accuracy to that? Did you question how you handled things?
“I think Mr. (Jim) Irsay’s comments maybe were taken out of context a little bit. I’ve had a lot of discussions with Mr. Irsay and I come away each time feeling very impressed with how he’s handled this team and as a person and appreciative to have a guy like him on your side, on my side. It’s awesome. I think there are mental things that anybody who’s injured goes through in any surgery – and not just football, but in any part of life. That’s something you have to work through and the frustration of not being out there is part of it. Understanding, I think naturally, I’m somewhat of an impatient person. In understanding that patience truly is a virtue and is necessary in situations has been important for me to understand.”
There have been concerns that there are issues between you and the organization. Has there been a time you have wanted out of Indianapolis? Can you address that at all?
“No, no. I was not aware of those – I guess rumors. No, that’s not true. I’m very, very happy here.”
You’ve spoken in past tense in regards to the pain. Would you say that right now you are pain free?
“Yeah, I’m not exactly where I want to be; I’m not 100 percent. I’d like to think that if I was 100 percent, I’d be suiting up for a game on Sunday. But the pain has significantly gone down and that’s why I feel so optimistic about the process and the plan that’s ahead of me.”
Did you stay in the Netherlands the whole time? Did you come back at all?
“I did. We stayed in the Netherlands the whole time. Ordered turkey from the butcher to make a Thanksgiving meal and had Christmas there. It was good.”
What was the treatment? What did you do there that you couldn’t do here?
“It had a lot to do with him (the trainer). The Colts have been really, really supportive.”
It was your choice to go over there and they supported you.
“Yes. Absolutely. Again, the resources that he had over there that were not available here, a lot of it was some people and some other things. That’s why, if I’m answering your question.”
Do you want to give your trainer some free publicity? What’s his name?
“No, he doesn’t need his name to be out there.”
Emotionally, just how draining has this been?
“Yeah, you get a little emotionally tired. I am I think a little emotionally tired from the whole process but that’s alright.”
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.