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Colts GM Chris Ballard: Andrew Luck history impacting pulling 'the reins' on Anthony Richardson's recovery

INDIANAPOLIS -- Anthony Richardson continues to make positive progress in rehab from a season-ending shoulder injury suffered in October, including beginning to toss the pigskin.

The dynamic quarterback said in December that he was ahead of schedule in his recovery, but Wednesday at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, general manager Chris Ballard said the club wants to "pull the reins" a bit on Richardson, noting the experience gained when Andrew Luck rushed back from a shoulder injury.

"Really happy about where he's at," Ballard said of Richardson. "He started throwing, he's on a rehab program. We're not gonna, like, I mean, I lived through the last one. And I learned a lot of lessons living through the last one, so, you know, forgive me for being a little cautious, but, ya know.

"I know Anthony's made some statements that it's important to be ahead of schedule. Well, we're here to pull the reins to make sure we don't get too far ahead of schedule and we're staying with whatever the doctors are telling us. But he's in good shape, he's throwing, got a good throwing program, got good people working with him, so I'm encouraged about where he's at and where he's going, and we'll go from there."

Luck famously played through a shoulder injury, missed an entire season due to the issue, returned for one campaign, then abruptly retired before the 2019 season.

Luck and Richardson's injuries aren't a one-for-one comparison, and the new Colt is in the infantile stages of his pro career. Still, Ballard's experience living through the Luck fiasco is an instructive point. There is no incentive for Richardson to push it at this point in the calendar.

Getting Richardson back on the field for the season is the first goal. Keeping him healthy is the long-term objective. In four starts as a rookie, Richardson flashed impressive tools, was a better processor and passer than anticipated coming out of college, and used his legs to dynamic effect. He can be a dynamite playmaker under center if he can stay healthy.

Ballard noted that it's on the team to surround Richardson with the right help to improve in Year 2.

"You want to give him as much as you can to be successful," Ballard said. "What you want is I think, you gotta make sure he's protected. I think you know my philosophy on that. You have to make sure your quarterback, especially a young quarterback, you gotta make sure he's protected. Then you want to put enough good players around him to be successful. Whether that comes through free agency or the draft, each year is a little different."

One storyline heading into the season will be whether head coach Shane Steichen tweaks the offense at all, lessening the designed runs in an effort to keep the quarterback healthy but ensuring he doesn't completely curtail a dynamic playmaker.

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