INDIANAPOLIS — The Colts are saying goodbye to their starting running back from the past three seasons, and they expect franchise quarterback Andrew Luck to be with the team when offseason workouts begin in the first week of April.
General manager Chris Ballard met with Frank Gore and told the veteran running back that the Colts don’t plan to re-sign him.
“We had a discussion. We had it multiple times during the season. Frank knows we’re at the point where we need to get younger, and I want to give Frank a chance to see what’s out there and see if he finishes in a place he wants to finish it,” Ballard said Wednesday. “He’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. He likes it when you’re honest with him.”
Gore will be 35 years old in May. He said at the end of last season that he planned to play a 14th year in the NFL, knowing there was a possibility that it wouldn’t be with the Colts.
He arrived with players like Andre Johnson, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole in the spring of 2015. Indianapolis hoped they would be the final pieces the Colts needed to make a run at the Super Bowl after they reached the AFC Championship Game the previous season.
Not only did Gore fail to reach the Super Bowl with the Colts, he didn’t make the playoffs with them in his three seasons. Luck was one of the main reasons Gore signed with Indianapolis, but the duo played just 22 games together because of Luck’s injuries.
Gore rushed for 2,953 yards and 13 touchdowns while starting all 48 games during his three seasons with the Colts. He gained 1,025 yards in 2016, making him the franchise’s first running back to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season since 2007.
Gore, who spent his first 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, has run for 14,026 yards during his career. He is only 76 yards shy of passing Curtis Martin for fourth place on the NFL’s career rushing list. The four players ahead of Gore — Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Martin — are all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Hall of Fame back, passionate,” Ballard said of Gore. “In just three years, even though most of his career was in San Francisco, he left an impact on the locker room and people like I’ve never seen another player do.”
Ballard and new coach Frank Reich said they are working under the impression that Luck will be with the Colts when they start offseason workouts the week of April 2. Luck, who had right shoulder surgery in January 2017 and missed all of last season, still has not thrown a football, but Ballard hopes the quarterback will be throwing within the next couple of months.
“I think we’ll get there during April and May to where we’re all seeing the progress we want to see,” Ballard said. “Talking to him and talking to the doctors, we’ve all ruled out [another] surgery. I think it’s at the point where we have to make sure. You have to remember that he played for two years banged-up. Then he had this whole year off.
“Taking a year where you’re not every day working the motion, it takes time to get back. When is that point? I wish I could give you a date. There’s no drop-down date. Can’t do it. I know this, I believe in the kid. I believe in where he’s at mentally, and he’s going to do some really good things going forward. He’s in a good place.”
Luck’s only practice time since Week 17 of the 2016 season was on a limited basis in October, before the team gave him a cortisone shot and shut him down due to soreness in the shoulder. He spent about six weeks in the Netherlands getting rehab on his shoulder and is currently in California working with throwing experts. Luck has used weight balls to work on regaining strength in his shoulder.
The Colts, despite Luck’s long layoff, continue to believe he will be back for the 2018 season.
“Do I have any doubt that he’s going to be ready? No, I don’t,” Ballard said.