According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Indianapolis Colts NFL All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard underwent successful season-ending back surgery on Tuesday—after consulting with renowned Los Angeles neck surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins on Monday (among others):
Source: #Colts All-Pro LB Shaquille Leonard underwent successful season-ending back surgery this morning after several evaluations. Leonard is on Injured Reserve, and the hope is the procedure fixes his issue for good. pic.twitter.com/Gjer1WUQDY— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 15, 2022
Leonard’s campaign being cut short isn’t ultimately surprising, given that after offseason back surgery, he was still having nerve issues in his back that were trickling down to his lower leg—as he indicated his calf still wasn’t ‘firing up’ properly.
The 4x NFL All-Pro linebacker appeared in 3 games (1 start) for the Colts in 2022, recording 11 tackles (8 solo), an interception, and a pass defensed.
However, while Leonard still ‘brought the juice’ regarding his energy and intensity, he did not look like his usual playmaking and explosive self—appearing a step slow out there.
Fortunately, for the Colts, the team’s younger linebackers such as Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed have performed well in Leonard’s absence this season and on his limited pitch count.
Both replacement starters are free agents this upcoming offseason, and the Colts will have some tough decisions to make regarding managing the salary cap—and retaining them.
What it means for Leonard’s football future is also cloudy at best.
The hope is that the most recent surgery will finally correct Leonard’s lingering pinched back nerve issue once and for all. However, back surgeries can be tricky and are never full proof—much less when playing linebacker, and one of the league’s most physical positions.
Leonard has a $24M dead cap hit for next season regardless, so it sounds like the Colts will have to let his medical situation play out—giving deference to a defensive standout and team captain who has otherwise been on a future Hall of Fame track to Canton, Ohio.
Having already been snakebitten by Andrew Luck’s injuries and abrupt retirement, Colts fans are hoping Leonard can now make a full recovery and get back to being one of the league’s best defensive players overall—and not have another superstar’s career end entirely too prematurely.