The Indianapolis Colts take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and they will once again be without All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard.
The Indianapolis Colts will play their third game of the season on Sunday and it will be the third straight game that Indy’s leader and impact player, Shaquille Leonard, will not be suited up to play. After an offseason back surgery, the team has been very cautious about Leonard’s return and rather mysterious about what information is shared with the public.
Now, three weeks into the season and no debut from Leonard, fans are a bit worried and slightly confused since Shaquille Leonard has been practicing since training camp ended. Head coach Frank Reich tried his best to clear things up when he announced that Leonard would not be playing against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Talking to the media on Friday, Reich explained how the team is evaluating Leonard by comparing his current form in practice to his games from the last couple of seasons. Reich said, “we watch tape and we can see when you look at tape from last year or the year before versus tape now, and you watch him move…And it’s not the same. We need it to look the same. From our standpoint, we need that tape to look like what it looked like when you were relatively healthy.”
Reich also talked about Leonard’s role in the decision-making process saying that Leonard “needs to feel it,” explaining that Shaquille Leonard, himself, needs to believe “he can go out there and play winning football. That’s the bottom line.” While the team and Leonard are in agreement that the time hasn’t come yet, Leonard is continuing to do everything possible to get back near full strength.
”He’s fighting and scratching every second to get back on the field. I promise you that. He is doing everything he can to get back out there. It’s killing him,” Reich exclaimed. For a competitor like Leonard, that’s believable. There’s no doubt that his desire to be back on the field is stronger than any fans’ or coach’s desire to see him play.
Colts practicing patience with Shaquille Leonard
As far as how Leonard’s absence has been impacting the team, the Colts are 0-1-1 and the defense hasn’t been playing up to their standard. The linebackers have been phenomenal against the run but they aren’t as good defending the pass as Leonard is when he’s on the field.
The biggest difference is a skill that’s not really coachable. Leonard’s influence and contagious energy are irreplaceable and so is his ability to force turnovers. When he’s on the field, not only will he take the ball away, but he does a great job of creating a culture where the entire defense becomes turnover driven.
The Colts must continue to do their best without Shaquille Leonard on the field and that starts with a tough opponent on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.