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INDIANAPOLIS — What Andrew Luck will be able to do when he joins his teammates for the start of offseason workouts remains a mystery. It’s possible the Indianapolis Colts quarterback might not even be throwing that first week of April.

The Colts know that. The bigger storyline is that Luck will be back at the team facility, in the locker room, and around his teammates and the coaching staff again. That in itself is big for Luck and for the entire organization.

“It’s not just learning a new system. He’s a smart guy; he can probably learn whatever he needed to in a week,” coach Frank Reich said. “But it’s really about culture. It’s about teamwork. It’s about he’s more than just our quarterback, he’s a big-time leader of our team. So to be a part of that and to be part of the culture that we’ve talked about … as [general manager] Chris [Ballard] and I have sat down and said, ‘Hey, what are we building here? What are we building?’ And obviously Andrew is a critical piece to that and his leadership at every level is important.”

Ballard says he thinks Luck — who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in January 2017 — will progress to throwing a football at some point in April or May.

That’s the boldest statement Ballard has made about Luck and his progress in the past year. The past 14 months have consisted of two things: Where is Andrew Luck in his rehabilitation and when will he return?

The thought that the 28-year-old might be nearing a return bubbled up too often around the organization last season. The Colts wondered about it during training camp, as the weeks passed by early in the regular season, and they definitely wondered about it after he started practicing with the team. The reality that Luck might not play in 2017 set in when he was shut down in October due to continued soreness in his right shoulder. Since then, Luck has traveled to the Netherlands and California to work on the physical and mental steps he must take if he’s to return to a Colts team that finished 4-12 without him in 2017.

“I’ve preached since I’ve walked in the door, it’s not about one guy; and I thought there were times last year where we were just … I think we were all, everybody was just waiting for this savior to come in on a white horse and save the day,” Ballard said. “I think everybody got to the realization — that’s one thing I was really proud of our team for — they just played. Were we the best team? No, but they battled, they played and once they saw this is what it is, they just played.”

It’ll be good for Luck personally to be in the comfort zone of the facility. He has said on more than one occasion that not playing has worn on him mentally. He took every meaningful snap during his first three seasons after the Colts drafted him first overall in 2012, only to miss 26 games over the past three seasons because of injuries ranging from his ribs and shoulder to a lacerated kidney and a concussion.

“Is it going to help having him back in the building? Absolutely it is,” Ballard said. “I think it’s going to be good for Andrew to be back around his teammates. I think that’s what he wants. I think that’s what he misses. I think he misses being around the locker room, being around his guys. Like I said a while ago, it’s one of the special things about this kid. He likes to be considered as one of the teammates.

“The only other player I’ve ever been around like that is [Brian] Urlacher. Urlacher, superstar Brian, he was just one of the guys, and he didn’t ever want to be treated differently. He knew his status, but he never acted in that way. You never would have known. So, in terms of him being back, yeah, I think it’ll be good for the organization, good for the team, good for the locker room and good for Andrew.”

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Ohio State’s Justin Fields set for 2nd pro day; San Francisco 49ers expected to attend

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Because of a scheduling conflict with another prominent pro day, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan were unable to attend Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields‘ first pro day on March 30. Now, as Shanahan and Lynch hoped and expected, they will get another chance.

Ohio State is slated to have a second pro day on April 14, providing another opportunity for teams, including the Niners, to see Fields in person, a source told ESPN. The Athletic first reported Fields, who is in the conversation for the 49ers with the No. 3 overall pick, will be participating in the second pro day.

Shanahan and Lynch did not see Fields’ first pro day because they were in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, watching quarterback Mac Jones and the rest of the Crimson Tide’s group of NFL prospects. That was Jones’ second pro day after participating in one earlier in March.

Although assistant general manager Adam Peters, college scouting director Ethan Waugh and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello represented the Niners in Columbus for Fields’ first pro day, Shanahan indicated there would be a second opportunity for him to see Fields in person and that the details were being worked out.

“Alabama has already had one, this is their second one. And just talking with Fields’ agent and everything, we’ll get another one from him, too,” Shanahan said on March 29. “So we’ll be able to see him, so that kind of made it an easy decision.”

Fields is one of the quarterbacks thought to be under consideration for the 49ers’ pick at No. 3 in this year’s NFL draft, along with the likes of Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

At his first pro day, Fields put on an impressive performance, running the 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.44 seconds and delivering accurate strikes on multiple deep throws.

“I think overall, I had a solid day,” Fields told reporters after that first workout. “Of course, as I think everybody knows, my goal in that 40-yard dash was to be at least in the 4.3s, so of course I’m kind of mad about that. But, you know, other than that, I thought I threw pretty well. I thought I just had a few missed throws but that happens. Not everybody is going to be perfect.”

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Philadelphia Eagles bolster defense with LB Eric Wilson, re-sign RB Jordan Howard

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PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles have signed linebacker Eric Wilson and running back Jordan Howard to one year deals, the team announced Wednesday.

Wilson, 26, was tied for the league lead among linebackers with three interceptions in 2020, and he also had three sacks and eight passes defended to go with 122 tackles in his breakout season.

He is the second former Vikings defensive player to be signed by the Eagles this offseason along with safety Anthony Harris. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was a member of Minnesota’s coaching staff from 2014-17 — overlapping with Wilson for one year — and is expected to draw from coach Mike Zimmer’s system as he creates his own in Philadelphia.

Howard, 26, re-joined the Eagles last November after being waived by the Miami Dolphins. He was traded from the Chicago Bears to Philadelphia in 2019 and rushed for 525 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games before being slowed by injury. Howard will compete to be in the running back rotation along with Miles Sanders and Boston Scott.

Wilson’s rise with the Minnesota Vikings from undrafted free agent to special teams player to starting linebacker went into full effect in Week 2 of the 2020 season, when Anthony Barr exited with a torn pectoral muscle that required season-ending surgery.

From that point on, Wilson, who was previously the No. 3 linebacker, played 100% of the defensive snaps for the Vikings. He was the team’s only linebacker to play in every game last season.

At times, he struggled against the run, finishing with 20 missed tackles. His run defense grade of 38.3 was the lowest of any linebacker who played a minimum of 80% of the snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin contributed to this report.

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Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones among players planning on attending NFL draft

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Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith of Alabama is scheduled to appear in person in Cleveland at the NFL draft later this month.

Smith, the wide receiver projected to be a high first-round pick, is among a group of players who have accepted their invitations to attend the draft.

The NFL announced last month that some of the top prospects were being invited to Cleveland. The league is hoping to incorporate some of the city’s best-known locations along Lake Erie: FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Browns; and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The draft will be held April 29 to May 1.

Last year’s draft was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic as Commissioner Roger Goodell hosted the 2020 event from his New York-area home, but he will be in attendance this time in Ohio.

Smith won’t be the only member of the national champions in attendance. Quarterback Mac Jones, defensive lineman Christian Barmore and cornerback Patrick Surtain II will be there as well.

Also attending the festivities will be wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who won the national title with LSU in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season; North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance; Florida tight end Kyle Pitts; Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau; Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons; and Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley.

Jones, Smith, Pitts and Surtain were all members of the AP All-America first team in 2020, while Barmore was on the third team. And Chase, Rousseau and Parsons were first-teamers in 2019.

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