With the NFL regular season fast approaching, teams are working on finalizing their rosters for Week 1. Unfortunately, for the Indianapolis Colts, there’s one huge question mark on their roster right now, and its franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. Following offseason shoulder surgery, Luck has been a spectator throughout the postseason and continues to find his name on the physically unable to perform list. The Colts have done their best to avoid making any definitive statements about Luck’s health, leaving fans in the dark about his status for Week 1 and the season ahead. So, what exactly is the shoulder problem that could keep Luck on the sidelines when the season begins?

The first thing to know is that Luck’s shoulder injury was not a sudden occurrence. He’s been dealing with pain in his shoulder going back to the second part of the 2015 season. At that time he was routinely receiving painkiller shots prior to games in order to perform. The shoulder pain continued into last season when Luck would take Thursdays off from practice in order to give himself extra rest before playing on Sunday. After a season and a half of dealing with the shoulder problem, Luck finally addressed it with surgery last January.

The Colts have held his specific surgical procedure close to the vest, with the most anyone from the front office has been willing to say is that it’s a “simple labrum repair.” This doesn’t tell us anything specific about the extent of the tear of Luck’s labrum, although referring to the surgery as “simple” would appear to be good news for Luck and the Colts. The use of the word “simple” likely means that the surgery did not address any issues with Luck’s bicep or rotator cuff, which sometimes accompany labrum tears.

The fact that the surgery was “simple” is good news, but labrum surgery still requires a recovery time between six to nine months. Luck is roughly eight and a half months into that recovery period, so he is likely approaching the end of the process. This should give the Colts a glimmer of hope that he’ll be ready by Week 1 despite not playing during the preseason. 

What is also unknown is what kind of throwing Luck has been doing away from the team’s formal practices. If he’s using a different throwing motion than he was before the surgery, that could indicate an unforeseen issue with his recovery. If he’s been unable to build up strength in his shoulder and feels his shoulder is getting weaker as he tries to increase his workload, that would also be a bad sign and could explain why Luck is still on the PUP list.

The clock is ticking for Luck. If he isn’t ready for Week 1, the Colts are likely to go with Scott Tolzien at quarterback. Tolzien has just 128 career pass attempts, with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. Those numbers don’t inspire a lot of confidence, even if the Colts only need Tolzien for a week or two.

It’s also pertinent to note that if Luck isn’t at least removed from the PUP list before the start of the season, he’ll have to sit out the first six weeks of the season. This is unlikely to happen, but at this point in the preseason, nothing can be ruled out. Obviously, Luck’s long-term health is more important than the first several games of the 2017 season, but that’s exactly why fans shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t see Luck in Game 1!