Three weeks ago, Andrew Luck called head coach Frank Reich. His shoulder was feeling right, and more important, his mind was right, and it was telling him it was time to throw a regulation NFL football.
It had been long enough and now, it was time.
"I'm coming in to work out,'' Luck told Reich.
So Reich showed up – he's been monitoring Luck closely since he was named head coach – and at the end of the workout, Luck eyed an NFL football and had an epiphany of sorts. It was time to throw. After all that time, after a process that took him to Amsterdam and Los Angeles and to emotional places he never could have imagined, Luck looked at that ball and said, "Hey, what do you think? Let's just pick this up and throw it around a little bit.''
And so they did, but there was one condition: Reich couldn't tell the media that Luck had thrown a regulation football.
Why the secrecy and subterfuge? Only Luck can answer that. But, then, transparency hasn't been the rule around here as it has related to Luck's long-awaited comeback.
The problem was, Reich was put in an uncomfortable position of lying to the media, which is never a good thing early in a head coach's tenure – or at any time, for that matter.
When Reich was asked a few weeks ago if he had seen Luck throw the ball, he said he had not. That was a significant fib.
"Sorry, I confess,'' Reich said Tuesday. "It was really hard for me to say that. I just want you to know…It really wasn't a workout. That was how I justified it in my mind.''
Luck wanted the media to know that he was the one who put Reich in the uncomfortable position of having to lie to the media.
"I had Coach Reich come out on a day that not many people were here and I made him swear to me that he wasn't allowed to tell anybody else about it and it was my story to tell, so don't give him a hard time if you feel like he misled you,'' Luck said. "…Don't hold it against him, though. That's on me.''
OK, that's on Luck.
But the story isn't that Reich lied, or that Luck put him up to it. The story is that Luck is throwing again, that the throwing schedule has been moved up, that he spent the first day of mini camp throwing a high school-sized football. For the first time, Luck provided tangible proof that as long as there isn't some sort of terrible setback, he will be ready to roll with no limitations come the first day of training camp the first of August.
"Honestly, there was a little mental block to doing it and I had to do it sort of by myself,'' Luck said.
Does this mean he's out of the woods? No, it doesn't. It will be instructive to see how his arm feels Wednesday and Thursday, how it feels that first and second week of August once he puts a load on that right shoulder.
We have been privy to way too many setbacks during this return to simply accept that the bad times are over and it's smooth sailing ahead.
But this is promising.
A first step.
Or maybe a second.
"I'm sort of bridging right now, if you will,'' Luck said. "For example, I'm doing overhead tennis serves. That's something that's analogous to throwing. It's a little less stress on the arm. The reason I'm using a small football is because it puts a little less stress on your arm…I guess we're in Indianapolis and the 500 just happened and that race in Texas – our bodies aren't vehicles. We're not robots. You can't just take a piece off, put a new piece on and go around. We adapt and if you ask the right questions and if you're patient enough and certainly this is what I've truly learned and believe in my bones, that if I stay patient and ask the right questions and communicate with everybody and ask the right questions of my body, that slowly but surely I can make myself do anything.''
He was asked if his arm feels like it felt back in 2015, before the injuries.
"Probably better,'' he said.
He continued, "If I went out here and threw 100 footballs tomorrow, I'd feel it and it'd be bad and I'd be sitting up here with probably a different countenance on my face. But I'm not going to do that. There's a process that I believe in.''
Of course, Luck began throwing in October of last season and soon felt pain and soreness. He was then shut down for the rest of the season. So what makes him believe that won't happen again?
"I'm not sure what else to say, but I just believe I'm on the right path,'' he said. "I believe I'm going to be better than I was. I really, really do. I believe I'll be a better quarterback for this team, a better teammate. It's hard to explain, I guess.''
This, he swears and the Colts swear, is not a false start. This time, he believes strongly, he is back and will return to the football field and will remain on the football field – although that's never an eternal guarantee given the game's violence and physicality. The shoulder, though, is finally strong enough to do what he's been trained to do, and that is the best news the Colts have had in more than a year's time.
Luck may not be all the way back, but he's as close as he's been in a very long time.
Even on a day when Luck didn't quite let it rip and still threw a slightly undersized football, it felt like hope had returned to the Colts' franchise.