Andrew Luck's right shoulder is still a pain, not to mention when he’s asked to talk about it.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback said Tuesday he’s feeling “better every day” after missing his first NFL start two days earlier, and assured he is preparing to start Thursday’s game at Houston.
Not that he’s 100 percent, but he’s confident he can play.
“I think I’ve gotten better every day,” he said. “I don’t think I’m necessarily where I would want to be today in a perfect, perfect world, but I’m better every day.”
Luck alluded to how NFL players are forced to play with aches and pains each week. It’s part of the job. He said the sore shoulder wouldn’t hinder him against the Texans.
Head coach Chuck Pagano also sounded encouraged, for what that’s worth. He sees his three-time Pro Bowl passer “trending in the right direction,” but then again, Pagano was also “supremely confident” Luck would play Sunday, too.
Instead, Luck was inactive for the first time in 51 regular-season games and six playoff starts. Backup Matt Hasselbeck led the Colts to a 16-13 overtime win over Jacksonville.
The Colts (2-2) are looking to win their third consecutive game against an AFC South Division foe this season as well as what would be a league-record 16th straight overall.
Luck said he hurt the shoulder in Week 3’s 35-33 win at Tennessee, although he finished that game and drove the Colts to 21 fourth-quarter points. The reality is he’s been banged around a bit, taking 21 hits and five sacks in three games, and he’s made some poor decisions with seven interceptions, which ties for the league high.
The Colts’ offense hasn’t been clicking, either, Pagano admitted, but the ever-optimistic coach suggests it’s merely a matter of time before it does.
Question is, can Luck stay healthy enough to ensure that happens?
He took most of the snaps Tuesday because Hasselbeck was a bit under the weather and missed the practice. Although the media didn’t get to see Luck throw during the part of practice open to reporters, Pagano said Luck threw the ball well.
“He looks good. He looks good,” Pagano said. “Talented guy, natural arm strength, good release, can spin it.”
Asked if Luck looks like he did before the injury, Pagano said, “He looks good. He’s always looked good. I’ve never seen him throw a bad pass.”
It was a curious comment considering the coach’s harsh criticism of Luck’s four turnovers in a Week 2 home loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
It’s fair to say being asked continual questions about Luck’s shoulder isn’t enjoyable for Pagano, either.
“Again, he was trending in the right direction,” the coach said, when asked if Luck would play. “So we’re always hopeful that he’ll be ready to go. We’re going to do the smart thing.”
What the latter comment means is anyone’s guess. Luck admitted he’s not healthy, but wants to play. The Colts appeared confident Luck could play based on Monday's release of quarterback Josh Johnson. But then Johnson was re-signed on Wednesday, which makes one wonder if that's about Luck's shoulder or Hasselbeck's illness or both.
Hasselbeck said Monday he expects Luck to play, especially since Houston is where Luck played his high school ball. But Luck advised where he’s playing doesn’t factor into his desire to suit up.
“To be honest, it’s no different than any other away game besides maybe it’s easier for my grandparents to come to the game, but no different,” he said.
When asked how close he was to playing in the last game, Luck said, “Obviously not close enough to play so to me that doesn’t quite matter and I’d like to think that I’m ahead of where I was last week.”
Luck also sidestepped a report that he has a separated shoulder.
“I’m not going to give credence to any report,” he said. “People have told me a lot of different things that I allegedly have or don’t have so I’m not going to address one and give anything credence.”
The Colts realize it’s an important game. They’re a half-game ahead of Tennessee for first place in the division. A win strengthens the two-time defending division champ’s hold on the AFC South with challenging games on the horizon, especially the next one at home against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
“I think anybody who has played the game of football has played a game with something at some point,” Luck said, “and adrenaline is a powerful thing and go out and play.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.