Andrew Luck 'very nervous' about first game in 19 months

Andrew Luck, he of the immense talent, spectacular neckbeard, and bitterly ironic surname, is getting ready for his first NFL action in 19 months. How’s he handling the pressure of a return to the mountaintop? Let’s find out.

What ever happened to Andrew Luck?

It’s tough to remember now in the tsunami of information that is the NFL in 2018, but there was once a time when Andrew Luck was supposed to be the future of the quarterback position — a lumberjack with speed. He carved up the AFC South in his first three years, 2012 to 2014, leading the Colts to identical 11-win records each time. But then he missed nine games with a shoulder injury in 2015. A few months after signing a contract in 2016 that made him the league’s highest-paid player, he underwent surgery on that shoulder and missed the entire 2017 season.

And that’s where we are now.

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Andrew Luck through his career
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Andrew Luck through his career
Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck looks on during pre-game warm-ups before playing in an NCAA college football game against the University of Southern California in Los Angeles October 29, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck (12) passes against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the 2012 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona January 2, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford University (R) and quarterback Robert Griffin III from Baylor University arrive for the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York, April 26, 2012. Luck is expected to be the first overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford University, holds up a jersey as he stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Indianapolis Colts as the number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft in New York, April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck smiles while standing on the sidelines during the first quarter of their NFL football game versus the St. Louis Rams in Indianapolis August 12, 2012. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) passes through coverage by Pittsburgh Steelers LaMarr Woodley (56) in the first quarter of their pre-season NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania August 19, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) calls signals at the offensive line against the Minnesota Vikings during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Indiana September 16, 2012. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck passes against the New England Patriots during the first half of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts November 18, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) yells to his teammates on the sidelines prior to the kickoff of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Indianapolis, Indiana December 30, 2012. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter of their NFL AFC wildcard playoff football game in Baltimore January 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck reacts after being tackled in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Colts 40-11. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) celebrates on the field after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44 to win the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) shakes hands after the game with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) at Lucas Oil Stadium. New England defeated Indianapolis 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) gestures before a snap against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Team Carter quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts (12) and Team Carter quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (9) warm up before the 2015 Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) shakes hands with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) moments after Indianapolis defeated the Broncos , 27-24 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) on the sidelines in the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) looks to pass in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) walks off the field after the Colts 22-17 loss to the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 30: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) watches practice during the Indianapolis Colts training camp on July 30, 2017 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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How will Luck handle a real game?

Luck hasn’t played a down of football since New Year’s Day 2017, when the Colts beat the Jaguars to finish 8-8 on the season and miss the playoffs. But he’s slated to go a quarter against Seattle on Thursday. How’s he feeling? “Nervous? I’ll be very nervous,” he told Peter King last week.

“I’m just going out there throwing balls,” he continued. “There is nothing holding me back. There are some things that feel really good, like an old sweatshirt that you put on that just fits well. And there are some things that still feel awkward and new and wobbly, per se.”

Luck’s playing with a new head coach in Frank Reich and a new offensive coordinator in Nick Sirianni, and they’ve got him on a slow-roll regimen that will, in theory, build up both his shoulder and his confidence after both got ground to dust over the last 19 football-free months. He’s throwing about half as many passes as a “regular” quarterback would at this point in training camp, and he’s working on his agility and strength as well as his touch.

It’s impossible to say at this point if Luck’s anything close to game-ready, and it’ll be equally impossible to make sweeping judgments based on Thursday night’s quarter of play. But if Luck comes back, it’ll be one of the great NFL stories of 2018. There’s still a long distance between there and here, though, a lot longer than even the Luck of old could throw.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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