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Here We Go Again With Andrew Luck

Last time it was a shoulder. This time, it’s a calf—or maybe a “small little bone,” if you ask Jim Irsay. Either way, the Colts’ star quarterback once again has a mysterious injury and no clear timetable for recovery.

AP Images/Ringer illustration

Andrew Luck’s injury is worse than we thought.

Luck has not practiced for nearly two weeks after aggravating a calf injury that cost him all of Indy’s offseason practices in May and June, and the team has not established a clear timetable for his return. The story is a worrisome echo of 2017, when the Colts lost Luck for the entire season to a mysterious shoulder injury that seemed like it would never go away. Time is truly a flat circle.

Our latest look into Luck’s calf situation came on Tuesday, when Colts owner Jim Irsay said in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio with former Colts general manager Bill Polian that Luck had a “small little bone” injury.

“I know everyone’s had their questions about Andrew and that sort of thing, but I really feel very confident that he’s going to find his way through this thing,” Irsay told Polian in that interview, which recorded on Monday and aired Tuesday. “I think after the [Kevin] Durant thing [that] everyone’s erring on the side of caution, but quite frankly this is not even in the Achilles tendon. It’s in another area. It’s a bone. You know I’m not good at these things. … It’s a small little bone. Ryan Diem had it and Raheem Brock I think had it the trainers told me.”

There is so much to unpack here it wouldn’t be able to fit in Luck’s suitcase for his next trip to Europe. The Durant comparisons started in late July when Luck described his injury as a calf strain, the same injury Durant was reportedly diagnosed with in the second round of the NBA playoffs against the Houston Rockets. Durant returned in the NBA Finals and ruptured his Achilles tendon, sparking a mass hoopla about teams pushing athletes to the brink of their health. But Luck, like Irsay, has downplayed the risk of injuring his Achilles, saying “my Achilles is not at extra risk” on July 30:

The Durant situation is likely the wrong comparison in terms of Luck’s specific injury. But in terms of a mysterious relationship between a player and his team’s medical staff, where we may never know exactly what has gone wrong or why, these scenarios are at least in the same ballpark.

First off, the calf is a muscle, not “a small little bone,” so Irsay’s comments indicate that the injury may be much more complicated than a calf strain. That’s concerning. NBC Sports’ Peter King reported that Luck had three MRIs, and that they revealed nothing more than a calf strain. This suggests the injury is either more complicated than the team was telling reporters (standard operating procedure for NFL teams) or the injury was worse than the team thought. If it’s the latter it would also echo 2017, when there seemed to be a serious disconnect between Luck and the Colts over the nature of his shoulder injury, which culminated in his traveling to the Netherlands to seek treatment. (Coincidentally, Luck was once again in Europe this offseason, but this time to marry his longtime girlfriend out of the public eye in Prague.) Just a few months ago, Colts officials were downright rosy about Luck’s injury.

“I’ve personally had that same [calf strain] issue,” head coach Frank Reich told reporters in May. “If you let it heal, it’s right. But start rushing back, it’s better to honor it. So that’s what we’re doing, playing it safe.”

Luck was surprised the injury had not healed by June, but he didn’t want to push through it. According to Zak Keefer at The Athletic, Luck suffered “some emotional scars” during the 2016 season when he was managing various injuries and constantly in the training room instead of practicing. Rather than manage the calf injury throughout the year, Luck wants to heal it, which is why he opted to rest until training camp. But on July 30 he indicated that he suffered a setback in that process and said he had done a disservice to himself trying to put an exact date on his return.

“I’m not looking for average, and if I going out here with pain, I’ll be average,” Luck told reporters.

All of this is to say: No one seems to know exactly what is happening with Luck or when the pain from that “small little bone” will subside. Just two weeks ago Luck said he’d be ready for Indy’s game against the Chargers in Week 1. Now there’s an unclear timetable for an unclear injury of an unknown origin, just like 2017. Here we go again.