According to head coach Frank Reich, the Indianapolis Colts remain “hopeful and optimistic” that All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard can return in time for the team’s regular season opener on the road against the Houston Texans—which is quickly coming up on September 11th in just a few short weeks.
However, his team is also preparing for the ‘worst case scenario,’ and that Leonard won’t be ready—still recovering from a recent offseason back surgery (via The Athletic’s Zak Keefer):
Asked Frank Reich about Shaquille Leonard's status — he says the Colts remain "hopeful and optimistic that he's ready (for Week 1) but you're preparing as if he's not gonna be ready. You prepare for worst-case scenario. But Shaq is preparing like he's gonna be ready for Week 1."— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) August 10, 2022
The situation still remains entirely fluid. However, given that the Colts initially expected Leonard to be ready for the opener—and we’re now hearing more ‘non-committal’ responses, with the team now preparing for at least a slight delay—and it appears as though his potential availability for Week 1 is trending much more downward than up.
After all, it comes just a day after NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe reported that the Colts expect Leonard back at “some point” this season—which isn’t necessarily a glowing report.
It’s not necessarily time to panic, as even Leonard missing a few games during a 17-game regular season isn’t a death blow to the Colts’ playoff chances—and winning the AFC South.
However, any prolonged absence could be, as he’s the top playmaker for the Colts defense and arguably the unit’s best player. The Colts can find solid production from his linebacker replacement, but they aren’t going to be able to replicate Leonard’s dynamic skill-set and unique takeaway ability. When fully healthy, he’s one of the best linebackers in the sport.
Right now, it’s simply a ‘wait-and-see’ approach for the Colts’ brass, who will be keeping their fingers crossed that Leonard can make a full recovery and return to the football field—much sooner rather than later.