WESTFIELD — The Indianapolis Colts believe they have finally isolated the source of the lingering pain in Andrew Luck’s lower leg.
But they won’t know for sure until the 29-year-old quarterback has undergone more rehab.
Luck has not practiced in full-team drills since the offseason program began in April, and he hasn’t participated in a training camp practice since July 27.
Still, general manager Chris Ballard sounded calm during a 17-minute conference call with local media Tuesday night while addressing the latest health saga involving the franchise’s biggest star.
Ballard said it’s unlikely Luck — who was going to see limited action even under the best of circumstances — will play in any preseason games. But he is not ready to make any determination about the quarterback’s status for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“This is not 2017,” Ballard said, referencing Luck’s lost season as a result of right shoulder surgery during which Indianapolis finished 4-12. “I’ve thought about this a lot because when I first came in the door, one of the first things we talked about was building a team that wasn’t gonna be about just one guy.
“I understand the importance of Andrew Luck. Are you kidding me? This guy’s one of the top five quarterbacks in the league. But we also got another quarterback that we like in Jacoby Brissett. So, to me, that’s part of building a team. You gotta be able to handle when things don’t go how you planned them out to be.”
That message is unlikely to calm a panicked fan base, but it meshes with the words being spoken every day by Colts head coach Frank Reich.
The team is optimistic Luck can be ready to play in three-and-a-half weeks, but it’s also prepared for the worst-case scenario.
The latest round of Luck paranoia was triggered by a satellite radio interview with Jim Irsay on Monday during which the Colts owner suggested the quarterback’s troubles could be traced to an issue with a “small little bone.”
Ballard said that phrase referred to the os trigonum, a round bone just behind the ankle joint that is present in no more than 15 percent of the human population. Luck has an os trigonum, but tests performed after Irsay’s radio appearance showed the bone is intact.
The process to eliminate that as a cause for the quarterback’s pain, however, led the team to an area at the front of the ankle. That is where his rehab will be targeted moving forward, and the Colts believe things could move quickly once the pain is resolved.
“(Luck)’s pretty special as a player,” Ballard said. “All players need reps, and he knows that. He knows he needs to get out there and get reps. So we’ll play that day by day.”
Ballard confirmed the saga began in March when tests revealed a strain in Luck’s left calf. When the pain -- which had crept toward the ankle -- lingered into May, the team sent the quarterback to a specialist and learned the calf wasn’t the sole source of the issues.
The Achilles tendon quickly was ruled out, and when the pain intensified three days into training camp, Indianapolis began expanding its search for the root cause.
The issues that have kept Luck off the practice field involve lateral movement and his ability to navigate the pocket. He has no issue moving forward and back.
The Colts are confident in their latest rehab plan but well aware they might not have all the answers yet.
No matter the outcome, Ballard is adamant the team will be ready for the season opener.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good football team,” he said. “We’re young, but we’ve got a pretty good football team. We like Jacoby Brissett, also, and I trust Andrew, and I know he’s going to do everything in his power to get back.
“I’ll say this. I have confidence in our team and confidence in the team we’re going to put out there versus the Chargers.”