- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Andrew Luck is paying a hefty price for taking so many hits.

After getting knocked around more than a dozen times in last weekend’s loss to Houston, the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback missed practice Wednesday with shoulder and elbow injuries to his throwing arm though he expects to play Sunday at Minnesota.

“Absolutely, very confident,” Luck said when asked if he’d be available this weekend.

The Colts (6-7) desperately need him because they have to win their last three games and get help just to stay in contention for the playoffs.

Pagano said he would monitor Luck’s status with the medical staff this week before deciding whether to use his quarterback against a Vikings defense that is No. 2 in the league and has 35 sacks.

Indy has given up 40 sacks this season and will be without left guard Jack Mewhort and possibly right guard Denzelle Good (concussion).

“I will wait for the doctors and trainers to go through the rehab process and go through the rest of the day (Thursday) and we will see tomorrow,” Pagano said, referring to Luck’s practice status.

The problem in Indy is that talk about Luck’s health has become a recurring theme in an already underwhelming season.

He’s been listed on the team’s injury report every week this season and has missed five full practices. When he sat the first time, in September, Pagano said it was because of a sore throwing shoulder and as part of a predetermined maintenance plan to keep the Colts’ biggest star healthy for the rest of the season.

Instead, the hits mounted and the injuries didn’t go away.

Luck missed the Thanksgiving night loss to Pittsburgh with a concussion. On Wednesday, he compared the current soreness in his right arm to the injury he had after a Week 2 loss.

“It didn’t feel as good after that game as you would like,” Luck said. “But again, it’s football. It’s December football. Nobody feels like they want to at this point of the year.”

During Luck’s first three NFL seasons, he was the model of consistency - starting 57 consecutive games including the playoffs, posting three straight 11-win seasons and reaching the postseason all three times.

But after enduring more than 450 hits since 2012, the most of any quarterback in the league, it’s taken a toll.

Luck missed his first two games early last season because of an injured right shoulder.

After returning, Luck spent the next month trying to fight through other injuries before missing the final seven games with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle.

Even when he did play last season, Luck wasn’t the same. He went 2-5 with 15 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in seven starts.

And though the stat line has improved this season, the hits keep coming.

“One time is too much,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “So any time he gets hit is too many.”

The latest injury comes as the reeling Colts are trying to pull things together after a loss prompted Luck’s favorite option, T.Y. Hilton, and the franchise’s career sacks leader, Robert Mathis, to offer their critiques.

Hilton told reporters Sunday evening that the Colts “laid down” against Houston.

Mathis used his weekly radio show Tuesday on local station WNDE to call on teammates to get stronger mentally.

“I’m not bashing - I’m just telling the truth. I’m the leader and that falls on me. I’m the first one the fans should be angry at,” Mathis said.

“We can play with any team, when we are on our ‘A’ game. It’s (just) a lot of mental. We are not the strongest mentally, as a team. The physical ability, the coaching, the players - it’s all there. Mentally, we need to get stronger.”

And if they have any chance of getting back in the playoff hunt , they need Luck on the field for the final month of the season.

“I’m a big believer in practice and it hurts your soul not to be out there practicing,” he said. “Obviously some things are done for the better for this team, for yourself. Not practicing today was the right decision.”

NOTES: Good and defensive tackle Zach Kerr were both limited participants at practice as they work through the concussion protocol. … Mathis (biceps), tight end Dwayne Allen (hip), receiver Donte Moncrief (hamstring) and offensive lineman Joe Reitz (back) did not work out. Safety Mike Adams, cornerback Vontae Davis and running back Frank Gore all were given the day off. … Starting cornerback Patrick Robinson (groin) will miss the rest of the season after being placed on injured reserve Tuesday.


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