Star linebacker Shaquille Leonard returned to the field this year for the Indianapolis Colts. After a 2022 that saw Leonard play a total of 74 snaps over three games, and have two back surgeries, it was a battle for the elite linebacker to get back to full health. Now, he is on a journey of returning to the player he once was.
A part of that journey is a ramp up process that’s controlled by the coaches and organization. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has been very open about Indy’s plan for Leonard to be back fully sometime in November. That means limited snaps for Leonard in the meantime. Every Sunday, viewers see Leonard subbed out of the game every few plays and typically on third down.
While the Colts have this luxury because of their elite linebacker room, not everyone is a fan of this plan; that includes Leonard himself. Recently speaking with the media, Leonard explained that he knows the timeline and understands the reasoning, but also emphasized that he wants to compete, saying, “I’m a competitor. Of course, I want to be out there 24/7. I want to be out there 100%.”
Shaquille Leonard is ready to play all of the Colts defensive snaps
As of now, Leonard is only out there 70% of the time, playing 313 snaps on the season. Clearly frustrated, Leonard said, “I want to be on the field. If I want to buy a ticket, I can sit in the stands or something.” But again, he knows the organization is watching him closely, hoping that he continues to progress. Leonard believes he’s close, and hopes everyone else sees it that way, because he wants to be on the field for all the moments.
Watching the Colts throughout the season, Leonard’s improvement has been noticeable. He has gotten better throughout games, and is playing much better now than he was in Week 1. On the season, he has 35 tackles and two for a loss, however, he hasn’t been able to force one of his trademark turnovers.
As the Colts enter the second half of the season, with Week 8 being the last game in October, it’s about time to give Leonard more freedom. Barring any setbacks, fans should start to see him on the field more, and hopefully, back to the elite version of himself.