Shaquille Leonard explains how it felt to be back on the field in real game for Colts

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard explains how he felt making his return to the field in Saturday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53)
Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) / Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, in the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, star linebacker Shaquille Leonard joined the Indianapolis Colts on the field in a game for the first time since Week 9 of last season. Starting and playing in the game was the latest progression for Leonard, as he works his way back to form, after two back surgeries last year limited him to just 74 snaps.

Leonard played just six snaps (two series) before the starting defense was pulled, and he didn’t record any stats. However, it was still a big day, because he was playing in an actual football game, and finished the game healthy, a step toward returning in the regular season.

Leonard recently spoke with the media, highlighting how it felt to be back on the field in a game. He admitted that he was nervous for the moment, but explained that everything settled in once he was actually on the field running around.

"[I got] no sleep last night. I've been anxious all day - a little nervous. Finally running out of the tunnel and feeling the hate from the other fans got me juiced up. Once, the ball snapped, I just felt like riding the bicycle once again - just have fun and just went out there playing with the guys."

Shaquille Leonard

Shaquille Leonard happy to finally join Colts in game

Leonard went on to say that “getting back in a game environment” was “the biggest step I could have taken in this process.” Being on the field in training camp is one thing, but it’s nothing like competing full speed against another team. Leonard now has that experience in his return.

However, there is something that Shaq is still looking for: contact. As stated, he didn’t record any stats in his snaps, and he explained to the media that “A lot of plays went away [from me], so I didn't really get too much contact… so I'm still looking forward to it.” He’ll have that opportunity in joint practices with the Chicago Bears this week, and in Saturday’s preseason game if the Colts decide to play him.

Hopefully, Leonard will get all of the contact and action he needs in training camp and the preseason so that he’s ready to go when Week 1 starts. Leonard is undoubtedly one of the best linebackers, and overall players in the NFL, and he’s a huge difference maker for the Colts when he’s on the field. It’d be great if he can give Indianapolis 17 games of the elite football that he established as a standard for himself.