"I would say, again, the odds are most likely he probably won't open up against the Rams," Irsay told reporters, per the Indy Star, "but let me be clear about it -- in our minds, it's something that we haven't ruled out. We're going to see where he's at. It would be awesome [if he can play]. We're not talking Willis Reed or something like that. [Luck] is a young guy, 12 to 14 to 16, maybe 18 years, I don't know, going forward [with the Colts]. The longer the better, in my opinion."
Sketchy '70s basketball analogy aside, this is the clearest picture painted by a ranking member of Indy's front office of how the Colts intend to finally get Luck back on the field. The quarterback hasn't fully practiced all training camp while rehabbing his shoulder, and the organization has treated his status like state secrets. Coach Chuck Pagano went as far to say that he hasn't even seen Luck throw a pass yet, insisting, "I kind of stay in my lane."
Indianapolis must decide by the 4 p.m. ET cut deadline on Saturday whether to move Luck to the active roster or place him on the physically unable to perform list, which would guarantee he misses the first six games of the season. Odds are that the Colts move Luck to the 53-man, but Irsay's comments Thursday instill next to no confidence that his franchise QB will see the field soon.
Interestingly enough, the owner implied that the hurdles Luck is facing in his return aren't just physical. They're mental too.
"It's a great question, because it's been said before by one of the greatest athletes and competitors who've played any sport -- the quote was this: 'These games, all games, are played on a four-inch field between your ears,'" Irsay said. "That's where it's at. You have to be able to deal with this, not only physically, but mentally.
"I have no doubt that Andrew Luck, the person we know that he is, he's going to come through this thing -- and he and I have had long talks about it -- not just as good as he was, but a better quarterback. When is the question. That timetable is gonna be more on, really, the football Gods and Andrew's gut feeling on how he's feeling."
Eight months into a six-to-nine-month recovery from shoulder surgery for an injury that occurred at the start of the 2015 season, Luck has had to deal with this ailment for quite some time, and Irsay is proud of taking the better-safe-not-sorry route with his season-ticket-selling signal-caller.
But if Luck's absence under center extends into the regular season, and deeper, prompting Scott Tolzein to start meaningful games, then Indianapolis will have essentially forfeited another season in the winnable AFC South before it even begins. That possibility is getting more and more likely by the day.