INDIANAPOLIS — If Andrew Luck ever finds himself in need of a job, he might want to make sure new Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni is listed as a reference.
The 28-year-old quarterback has long been considered a coach on the field, but Sirianni found his legendary football intelligence to be even more impressive in person.
"I just think he can come out and be a successful offensive coordinator tomorrow just because of his football IQ and his football knowledge and his way to lead," Siriannni said. "So to have that in the huddle with you and obviously in the meeting room, to have that here, just another set of eyes to correct mistakes and get things right. It’s awesome in the meeting room, and it doubles even better on the field."
Luck has returned to the field with increasing intensity in the past two days of mandatory mini-camp.
After throwing a series of short warm-up passes during individual drills Tuesday, the quarterback threw to live receivers for the first time Wednesday. The passes all remained in the intermediate range, and a seam route to tight end Jack Doyle in particular seemed to have some extra zip on it.
Luck also threw a regulation NFL football publicly for the first time during the drill in which no defenders participated.
When he was finished, Luck removed his helmet and shared a fist bump with head coach Frank Reich before jogging into the indoor facility to complete the rest of his rehab routine.
The workout was in line with Reich's words Tuesday, when he said Luck would ramp up his participation from the first day of mini-camp. The quarterback will not throw Thursday, in keeping with his current routine that simulates the stress his surgically repaired right shoulder will be under during the regular season.
With the three-day mini-camp scheduled to end after Thursday's morning session, the first training camp practice on July 26 will be the next time the public gets to see Luck throw.
It's likely he'll get together at some off-site location for a workout with his receivers — many of whom have never caught a pass from him before — sometime before that date.
But Sirianni won't push for that to happen.
"There’s part of me that says you’ve got to rest your bodies a little bit," he said. "You’ve got to come back ready to roll because we don’t have time to get yourself back into shape. So there’s part of me that says you’ve got to let your body heal a little bit and relax a little bit before the grind of the season that’s coming along.
"But what I’ve found out with quarterbacks like (Luck) and Jacoby (Brissett) and other quarterbacks that I’ve been around — they don’t need that nudge. They’re going to do it on their own."
Second-year linebacker Anthony Walker crumpled to the ground during a run play in full team drills Wednesday.
Trainers remained several yards behind the new line of scrimmage tending to Walker for several minutes. He eventually was taken off the field on a cart after Reich and Brissett came over to offer words of encouragement.
Any extended absence for Walker — who had been working extensively with the first team — will further muddy the depth chart at linebacker where all three starting positions remain a wide-open competition.
"I was just talking to the linebackers today, and I said, ‘Hey, we have 10 guys in here. One through 10, we have no idea who is one, and we have no idea who is 10,’" defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said before the afternoon practice. "So the competition is up in the air, and that’s at every (defensive) position."
Several expected contributors have been heavily limited or out of practice all together this spring.
Among the defensive players in that category are safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers, cornerback Quincy Wilson, rookie linebacker Darius Leonard and rookie defensive end Kemoko Turay.
Wilson and Turay took part in Wednesday's practice, but the other players haven't taken a meaningful snap all offseason.
"We will get those guys caught up to speed the best we can, and we have done that to this point with what we are able to do in terms of cone drills, walkthroughs and stuff that is not impactful," Eberflus said, noting every rep is important — especially with a new scheme being installed. "But they have some catching up to do, and they have to show what they are made of in terms of their learning abilities and their play ability. It doesn’t matter if it was a first-round pick or if it’s a free agent. Everybody is held to the same standard, and we are going to be looking at what they are doing in terms of their learning and their execution on the field."