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INDIANAPOLIS — Colts quarterback Andrew Luck says the thought of having a second surgery on his right shoulder has “sailed.”

Luck, who is continuing his rehabilitation on his surgically repaired right shoulder, did not attend a Town Hall event held by the Colts on Tuesday. However, he did a pre-recorded video interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who emceed the event, and it was aired for the audience.

“Oh, [surgery] is not an option for me right now,” Luck said. “I feel very, very good about where I am. So that ship has sailed in my mind, which is also a bit of a relief. I’m not going to lie.”

The Colts have undergone almost a complete overhaul in the past 13 months, with a new general manager, new head coach and likely an entirely new coaching staff. But a significant part of their success in the future will center on Luck’s health, which remains a mystery.

Like the franchise, Luck has dealt with a lot of change over the past 13 months. He had surgery on his right shoulder in January 2017. He missed all of the team’s offseason workouts, all of training camp and eventually the entire 2017 season after experiencing soreness that couldn’t be calmed by a cortisone shot once he started practicing in the middle of October. Luck also spent about six weeks in the Netherlands rehabbing his shoulder in late 2017.

New Colts coach Frank Reich said he’s “hopeful” that Luck will be back once the team starts offseason workouts in April.

“It’s been a long journey to this point, and it’ll still be a long journey until hopefully we get what we need to get done in Indianapolis,” Luck said. “The rehab has been hard at times. The one thing I know in my heart is that I am getting better, and I’m feeling great. I’m extremely optimistic. It’s been fun to see myself improve, so really I couldn’t be more excited for this offseason and for our new coach — everything that’s happening — and where the direction of the team is going.”

Luck has spent the past few weeks in Southern California working with throwing experts. He said he has started throwing but didn’t specify what kind of ball he’s throwing.

“Yeah, so I’m in the middle of sort of a little bit of throwing, but strengthening and preparing my shoulder to be able to handle the throw-load that is part of being an NFL quarterback,” Luck said. “So the focus right now is still strengthening all those muscles and making sure that my shoulder can handle it. … And as much as I have to catch myself — as much as I want to grab a ball and throw it a million times – I know I have to build up to be able to handle that point, and right now I’m in that building phase still.”

Luck spent his first three seasons in the NFL taking every significant snap for the Colts. His past three seasons, though, have been full of nothing but injuries. He has missed 26 games over the past three seasons because of shoulder, rib, kidney and concussion injuries. He hasn’t played in a game since Week 17 of the 2016 season.

“It was very difficult to not play last year and to have something that you love to do taken away from you,” he said. “And it makes you sort of turn the proverbial mirror on yourself and look at, you know, ‘Who am I? What am I? What do I truly love to do?’ And one of the many great things, blessings, of what I’ve gone through, one of them is that I truly, I can look at myself and I love football, and I want to play so bad. I love throwing a football. I love my teammates.

“And when that’s taken away from you — I probably didn’t appreciate it, how much joy I got out of that from my first five years in the league, and then to have that taken away from you gives you a perspective, and I think I’ll be a better quarterback and a teammate because of that perspective.”

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Jason Witten retiring from NFL after 17 seasons, plans to do so with Dallas Cowboys

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FRISCO, Texas — After 17 seasons, Jason Witten is retiring from the NFL. He intends to sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in March when his contract with the Las Vegas Raiders expires at the end of the league year.

Witten, 38, played 16 seasons with the Cowboys and spent 2020 with the Raiders. No tight end in NFL history has played more games than Witten’s 271, and only Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez has more receptions and yards at the position.

“A coach once told me, ‘The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example,'” Witten told ESPN. “As I hang it up, I walk away knowing that for 17 seasons I gave it my absolute all. I am proud of my accomplishments as a football player on the field and the example I tried to set off of it. Football is a great game that has taught me many valuable lessons, and I look forward to passing on that knowledge to the next generation.”

Witten first retired after the 2017 season and spent 2018 as an ESPN Monday Night Football analyst but opted to return to the Cowboys in 2019.

A third-round pick in 2003, Witten developed into one of the best tight ends in NFL history. He was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times, tied with Hall of Fame defensive lineman Bob Lilly for the most in Dallas history, and was considered a complete tight end because of his ability as a blocker in addition to his pass catching. In 2012, he was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year winner for the work he and his wife, Michelle, have done with their foundation.

Witten is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receptions (1,215) and yards (12,977) and is second in touchdown catches (72). He had four 1,000-yard seasons, and in 2012 he set the record for catches in a season by a tight end (110) — a record that has since been broken (Zach Ertz, 116).

He played in a team-record 255 games, including a franchise-record 245 starts, missing just one game in his career because of a broken jaw as a rookie. He had 13 catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns for the Raiders but was lauded by coach Jon Gruden and fellow tight end Darren Waller for his mentorship.

Coaching has long been mentioned as a possibility for Witten’s next move. He has been linked to opportunities in the NFL and college levels immediately should he want to start down that path. Undoubtedly he will be inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, and he will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2026.

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Source — Green Bay Packers fire special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers have fired special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga after two seasons in that role with the team, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Mennenga was part of coach Matt LaFleur’s original staff when he was hired before the 2019 season.

There was no immediate word on the status of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whose contract expired after this season. Pettine was meeting with LaFleur on Wednesday to discuss his status.

Pettine opted not to sign an extension after last season, sources said. Most Packers’ coordinators and position coaches always have two years on their deals, but Pettine chose to go into the last year of his contract and see how things played out.

Despite the Packers’ 13-3 regular season and berth in the NFC championship, they struggled on special teams throughout the season.

Blocked kicks, long returns allowed and an ineffective return game overshadowed a near-perfect season by kicker Mason Crosby, one of the few bright spots on special teams.

The Packers ranked 29th in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings, widely considered the gold standard for special teams evaluation around the league. Green Bay was 26th last season.

Mennenga inherited the worst special teams unit in the league from 2018, when they ranked 32nd under former coordinator Ron Zook. The Packers also ranked last in the league in 2014 under then coordinator Shawn Slocum. The club’s highest ranking on special teams between 2014 and 2020 was 16th in 2017.

Among the Packers’ issues on special teams this season were:

  • Two punt returns allowed for touchdowns (a 91-yarder in Week 10 by the Jaguars and a 73-yarder by the Eagles in Week 13)

  • A fourth-quarter fumbled kickoff return by Darrius Shepherd in what as a tie game during Week 11 against the Colts that the Packers went on to lose in overtime

  • A blocked punt in Week 9 by the 49ers

  • A bad snap on an extra point in the divisional playoff game against the Rams that led to a scramble situation on which holder JK Scott panicked and threw the ball to Crosby, who suffered a shoulder injury

  • An inconsistent season punting by Scott

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst used draft picks in 2018 on Scott (fifth round) long snapper Hunter Bradley (seventh round), and neither has performed up to standards.

NFL Network first reported the news about Mennenga’s firing.

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With QB vacancy needing to be filled, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says team ‘close’ to Super Bowl

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INDIANAPOLIS — Colts owner Jim Irsay has gone from not having to really worry about the quarterback position for nearly 20 years to now heading into his second straight offseason not knowing who will be the starter in 2021.

“The type of team we have, it would really benefit us most if we could have someone who can come in and play at a high level, with a veteran vision,” Irsay said Wednesday.

The Colts have a young and talented roster led by linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Quenton Nelson, but they have a substantial void at quarterback. Veteran Philip Rivers, 39, led the Colts to the playoffs for just the second time since 2014, but he announced Jan. 20 that he was retiring after 17 seasons.

Rivers’ retirement means the Colts could have their fifth different Week 1 starting quarterback in 2021 after they had Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck basically from 1998 until 2019. Rookie Jacob Eason is the only quarterback currently under contract for the Colts. Jacoby Brissett, who started Week 1 in 2019, is scheduled to be a free agent.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s belief is that a team is not all about the quarterback; it’s about having a complete roster. But there has to be stability at quarterback, as the four teams that reached the NFC and AFC Championship Games — Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Buffalo — all have that.

“Our belief is we’re close, that we have a tremendous nucleus of players that are capable of competing for the Super Bowl very soon,” Irsay said. “Ideally if you can get someone to come in this year who’s ready to go, it gives you your best opportunity.”

The Colts are projected to have around $69 million in salary-cap space, but it’s not really a hot free-agent market at quarterback, as players like Cam Newton and Jameis Winston highlight that group. Ballard didn’t sound optimistic about finding a quarterback at their current position, No. 21, in the first round of the draft either.

The other option is the trade market, where Detroit‘s Matthew Stafford continues to be linked to the Colts as a possible destination.

Irsay acknowledged that the franchise would gladly welcome back Luck, who suddenly retired in August 2019, if he decides to resume his career. The two haven’t discussed a possible return, but the owner did joke that he will continue to look at his fax machine in case the quarterback decided to take a page out of Michael Jordan’s book by sending a message that simply said, “I’m back,” like Jordan following his first retirement from the Chicago Bulls.

“He knows how much we’d love to have him be our quarterback, there’s just no question about that,” Irsay said. “But at the same time, we know for it to work out, he has to be the one that says ‘You know what? I’m ready. I want to really create a little bit of history, in unprecedented aspects.'”

Irsay added, “I don’t know if we’ll see that. I think he’s happy. He’s raising his daughter. He has a wonderful family. He’s a great Colt and he knows that can come back any time he wants, but at the same time, we respect that he’s made that decision.”

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