Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's early season injuries may have been worse than reported at the time.
Luck will miss his ninth game of the season when he sits out Sunday's regular-season finale against the Tennessee Titans because of his unhealed lacerated kidney.
But according to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, Luck sustained torn cartilage on two of his ribs and was still coping with significant pain after returning to the lineup for four games in late October and early November.
An NFL source said the injury likely affected Luck's performance after he returned from a two-game absence that the Colts attributed to a shoulder injury. Luck, according to the source, needed pain-killing injections to play and was limited by the injury, which impacted his throwing motion and accuracy.
The information provided by the IndyStar source is similar to a report from Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, who said in November that Luck was dealing with fractured ribs and was playing through the pain. Luck missed games against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 4 and Houston Texans on Oct. 8 before returning to play an Oct. 18 game against the New England Patriots. The Colts attributed his absence to a shoulder injury but never mentioned his ribs.
When initial talk of injured ribs arose, the Colts issued a statement from general manager Ryan Grigson: "Our injury reports are accurate. If people have any questions about player injuries, they should refer to our injury reports."
Luck, 26, entered his fourth season with Super Bowl expectations, but he had just seven starts with two wins, 1,881 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
"Football players want to play football," Luck said this week. "You want to be out there playing. You feel like you're letting teammates down."
The Colts did not put Luck on injured reserve because of their slim playoff hopes. The Colts (7-8) still can win the AFC South -- they need to beat the Titans and get help from eight other teams if the Houston Texans (8-7) lose Sunday to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"What gives me (hope) is my kidney has healed as we've gone on," Luck said. "It hasn't been stagnant. ... If we make it, hopefully I can get a clean scan and a go-ahead from the docs and see what happens."
The Colts originally announced that Luck would miss 2-6 weeks when he suffered a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle after taking a hit early in the fourth quarter in the Nov. 8 game against the Denver Broncos.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano announced Wednesday that Luck was ruled out of Sunday's game because the quarterback has yet to be medically cleared from his kidney injury.
"Getting better, but not good enough to go out and play a football game," Luck said. "I am disappointed. It's no fun to sit out on the sideline, same thing I've been talking about."
Unless the Colts get a playoff berth, the Colts plan to dismiss Pagano after the season, ESPN.com reported Thursday, based on league sources.
Owner Jim Irsay released a statement later Thursday, which read, "As of today, no decision has been made with respect to any structural changes within the Colts organization for 2016 and beyond."
Pagano said Friday he isn't sure who will be the starting quarterback, with both Matt Hasselbeck (shoulder) and Luck declared out for Sunday's game.
The Colts are left with recently signed quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley as well as undrafted free agent rookie Stephen Morris.
Morris was signed off of the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad last week, but the two veterans have been getting the first-team snaps at practice this week.
Pagano was asked about Irsay's New Year's Eve statement that no decision has been made about his future.
"I've had no time to think about any of that stuff other than this ball game," Pagano said Friday.