INDIANAPOLIS >> Chuck Pagano refuses to play guessing games.
He won’t say whether Scott Tolzien or Stephen Morris will start Indianapolis’ preseason finale, and he’s sure not putting odds on Andrew Luck’s chances of playing in the Colts’ regular-season opener.
“We’re going to prepare,” the coach said when asked how the Colts are getting ready for the Sept. 10 opener against the Los Angeles Rams. “I’m not a bookie, I’m not an oddsmaker, so I’m not allowed to put numbers on that.”
In any typical season, a quarterback decision heading into the annual Cincinnati game would barely register as a blip in Indy.
But with Luck still on the physically-unable-to-perform-list following offseason shoulder surgery, time is running short and every move is magnified.
The three-time Pro Bowler missed all of the Colts’ offseason workouts after undergoing a procedure to repair a partially torn labrum. He didn’t start throwing until the week before training camp and since then has only been seen doing a little rehab work on the side.
Luck hasn’t yet taken a snap with his teammates, and league rules won’t allow him to line up until he’s activated off PUP.
Indy is scheduled to practice Aug. 29, then will take the weekend off as Pagano and general manager Chris Ballard trim the roster.
Even if Luck is activated before the Sept. 2 cutdown, as Ballard predicted in July, Luck would have only one week to get ready for NFL action. And he hasn’t thrown to an NFL receiver since Jan. 1.
Inside the organization, contingency plans have been underway for months. Team owner Jim Irsay recently told reporters that the team had talked to one or two potential replacements and nearly signed one unidentified quarterback in his 30s before backing off when the player wanted more money than the Colts were willing to pay — especially for only a couple of weeks as Irsay suggested.
“He could start out in Los Angeles. I don’t want to act like that is a foregone conclusion that he’s not going to be starting out there. He could, but he also could not,” Irsay said on Aug. 13. “But again, we don’t see an extended delay. What that means, we’re not going to put a timetable on it because we will not, will not, put any pressure on this decision.”
Nobody really knows how close Luck is to returning, either.
The Colts have been tight-lipped about his progression and never established a timetable for his return. In fact, Pagano told reporters Monday he hasn’t even seen Luck throw.
If Luck continues to miss time, Pagano would likely have to choose between Tolzien, the veteran backup who has struggled most of this summer, or Morris, who spent most of the last two seasons on Indy’s practice squad but has officially logged an NFL pass attempt.
The competition got more intriguing last weekend when Tolzien had his best performance of the preseason in a 19-15 victory at Pittsburgh. It could be good enough to end the critiques and hold onto the starting job until Luck returns.
Morris, meanwhile, has been the more consistent performer. Solid fourth-quarter showings in the first two games helped Morris reclaim his job as Tolzien’s backup, and Morris was 12 of 16 for 143 yards against the Steelers.
On Monday, Tolzien took his regular amount of snaps with the starters. Otherwise, Pagano is being as coy about the quarterback depth chart as he is about Luck’s healthy.
“Both guys played well, both guys moved the football team, so there are a lot of positives going on,” Pagano said. “We’re moving forward with who we have on this team right now.”
NOTES: Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis missed practice with a groin injury. Pagano said Davis was seeking a second opinion. … Indy appeared to clear up its special teams competitions with two unpredictable moves. The team traded rookie long snapper Thomas Hennessy to the New York Jets for safety Ronald Martin. Hennessy was projected to win the job at the start of camp. That job now falls to first-year player Luke Rhodes, a linebacker. … Indy also released veteran punter Jeff Locke, the first unrestricted free agent signed by Ballard. That move gives Rigoberto Sanchez the job. If Sanchez makes the roster, the Colts will extend the NFL’s longest active streak of an undrafted rookie making the final roster to 19 years.