Could Andrew Luck return to NFL? Colts owner Jim Irsay: 'I don't rule it out'

An hour after news of Andrew Luck’s retirement stunned the NFL, and around 18 minutes after Luck himself stepped to a podium to confirm it, the question was posed: Could Luck, a 29-year-old Pro Bowl QB with all-world talent, ever return to the sport he mastered?

Luck, standing in front of Colts logos, with an embroidered one above his heart, didn’t completely slam the door on football for good. He did, however, make an eventual return sound unlikely.

“How do you know – say a year from now, when the ankle’s finally healed – you won’t want to come back?” a reporter asked.

“I can’t see the future,” Luck responded. “But I very clearly in my mind see that I won’t.”

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Luck seemed at peace with his decision. Almost relieved. “Clarity” was the word he used on multiple occasions.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 17: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts is seen during the preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Andrew Luck spent what will likely be the final game of his NFL career on the sidelines in an Indianapolis Colts baseball cap. (Getty)

Nonetheless, the question will surely loom for years – especially if Luck can find a way to escape his “cycle of injury, pain, rehab; injury, pain, rehab.”

And Colts owner Jim Irsay, speaking minutes after Luck exited the news conference room, didn’t exactly take a preemptive fire extinguisher to the flames of speculation.

Irsay: ‘I don’t rule out’ Luck return

Irsay, sandwiched in between Colts head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard, was asked a similar question to the one Luck answered: “Do you think he ever plays in the NFL again?”

“You know, I don’t rule it out,” Irsay said. “Because as quickly as this thing sort of descended on us, and as mysterious as it was coming upon us, it could leave the same way. ... I would say it’s possible.

“No one knows,” Irsay continued. “And [Luck would] be the first to tell you that no one knows. Only time will tell.”

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The question came at the end of a long-winded Irsay answer, in which he seemed to hint at the possibility, and stray toward wishful thinking. To begin, he spoke of gratitude, and in praise of his now-former franchise cornerstone. He admitted that “part of our heart’s broken tonight.” And he clarified: “I never felt that he owed me to play until he’s 40, or until he’s 36, or whatever.”

But then Irsay continued: “This is an unusual situation. I mean, we see Tiger Woods come back and win the Masters. We see different things, Michael Jordan retire and unretire. In this case, we just wish him the best, and maybe that he finds some clarity, and maybe – he’s just gonna be 30 years old late next summer, or right around there ...”

Irsay didn’t quite say what he was thinking right then and there. “Obviously, he has to find his way,” Irsay said of Luck. “And he was very specific to say, ‘Hey, this has been my journey, no one else’s journey.’ ... He got into a position where he felt it would be counterproductive for everyone for him to continue on.”

But then the tangent continued. Irsay mentioned former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who beat cancer. He mentioned a local hospital, and “miracle stories.”

A bit later, he said: “[Luck is] only gonna be 30 next year. ... It’s a transformative situation, it’s a worm becoming a beautiful butterfly. It’s big. He has to change and evolve from this as a young man. And I think he’s determined to do that. What that means in terms of his career as a football player remains to be seen.”

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