Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck watches his teammates warm up before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Houston. Luck will miss the game with an injury. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)
Patric Schneider
October 14, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck is starting to look and feel like his old self in practice.

Now he must prove he's just as healthy in a game.

For the first time since Luck injured his right throwing shoulder, outsiders saw the Colts quarterback making intermediate and long throws at Wednesday's practice - a promising sign for a team that faces the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots on Sunday night.

''Certainly, that was the next step,'' Luck said. ''I'm getting better and better and I feel like I'm on track.''

It's about time.

Luck missed the first two games of his pro career after getting hurt in a Sept. 27 victory at Tennessee. He was listed as a limited participant at practices both weeks.

He was officially listed as limited and day to day again Wednesday but was much more active than either of previous two weeks. He dressed in pads, threw short, accurate passes to running backs and made some longer throws to his tight ends during the early portion of practice that was open to the media.

That leaves one big question for the showdown with New England (4-0): If Luck plays, will he be in prime form?

''I think we're all hopeful to see the Andrew we all know and love, but time will tell,'' coach Chuck Pagano said. ''When he's back, I'm sure we're going to see the same guy. Again, I don't have a crystal ball. But I can tell you when he's back back, he'll be fine.''

Luck is ranked 34th among NFL quarterbacks with a rating of 65.1, has the second-lowest completion percentage (56.0) among regular starters and is tied for second in the league with seven interceptions even after sitting out two games.

Neither the Colts nor Luck have confirmed what is wrong with his shoulder. Whatever the case, the extra rest seems to have helped Luck recover, though he noted the limited designation Wednesday was a combination of two things - taking fewer snaps and what he could actually do on the field.

''I'm constantly self-evaluating - am I better than I was yesterday or worse?'' Luck said. ''That part is probably getting better every day and I'm getting closer to where I want to be.''

Without Luck, the Colts have found their groove, too.

Boston native Matt Hasselbeck rallied the Colts (3-2) to back-to-back wins against Jacksonville and Houston, victories that put Indianapolis back in control of the AFC South.

Some observers believe the smart move this week would be shutting down Luck again and allowing the 40-year-old Hasselbeck to see if can derail his father's former team. Hasselbeck, who played through a bacterial infection at Houston, acknowledged he's feeling much better this week, too.

If Luck is anywhere near 100 percent, Hasselbeck doesn't expect to play.

''He's himself, he had some great throws today. I'd be surprised if he didn't start,'' Hasselbeck said.

Pagano expressed similar sentiments before the Jacksonville game and Hasselbeck said almost exactly the same thing before the Houston game.

Besides, keeping Luck's status under wraps could give the Colts a tactical advantage against the equally secretive Patriots.

But it appears Luck is getting close to playing shape.

''I'm throwing better, moving faster,'' he said. ''I'm doing everything better and with less restriction.''

Notes: Indianapolis re-signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw on Wednesday. Bradshaw missed the final six games last season after breaking his left leg in the 42-20 loss to New England last November. ... Running back Tyler Varga (concussion) and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (groin) did not practice Wednesday. ... Linebackers Trent Cole (back) and Nate Irving (knee) were limited participants along with Luck. Linebacker Bjoern Werner (hamstring) was a full participant. ... Veterans Robert Mathis and Andre Johnson were given an extra day of rest, Pagano said.

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