Indianapolis Colts hopeful Shaquille Leonard will play Week 1 vs. Houston Texans

WESTFIELD, Ind. — All-Pro Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard still has no timetable for a return.

Leonard, who underwent offseason back surgery to relieve the pressure two discs were putting on a pair of key nerves, remains on the active/physically unable to perform list.

The injury was the source of Leonard’s ankle and calf issues last season, and the Colts are hoping to get a full-strength Leonard back on the field, although he turned in a remarkable 2021 season and missed just one game despite battling the ankle.

“We talk about every scenario,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “I’m hopeful and optimistic that he’s ready, but you’re preparing as if he’s not going to be ready. You prepare for worst-case scenario, but Shaq is preparing like he’s playing Week 1.”

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Shaquille Leonard is a three-time first-team All-Pro.
Shaquille Leonard is a three-time first-team All-Pro.

Leonard has been on the field at all practice sessions, standing with the linebackers, learning the defense and helping his teammates make plays.

All of his rehabilitation work has taken place away from the Grand Park practice fields, but Leonard is working hard to be ready to play against the Houston Texans on Sept. 11.

“He’s doing a lot of extra work, and he’s getting his mind right, ready to play,” Reich said. “The player’s got to think he’s playing as soon as he can, and then we’ve all got to get together, trust the process and figure out what’s right.”

Under Reich, the Colts have been willing to let key players open the season on the field despite significant missed time in training camp due to injury. Quarterback Carson Wentz and left guard Quenton Nelson started the season opener in 2021 despite missing almost all of training camp due to foot surgery.

Leonard is the type of player who can follow in those footsteps.

But Reich says he will need more than one full week of practice, which was the barometer often cited for Wentz and Nelson. The Colts want to see how Leonard responds in the work he does rehabilitating on the field, when he’s pushing the sled, going through linebacker drills and the rest.

“I think it’s going to depend those last couple of weeks before he gets on the field,” Reich said. “With Shaq, he’s so instinctive and so smart, he’s really putting in the time, we want to get him as much work as possible, but he’s a unique player, we want him on the field as soon as we can.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Shaquille Leonard, Colts hopeful All-Pro linebacker can play Week 1