While there’s never been a set in stone return date, Indianapolis Colts’ team officials initially expected 4x NFL All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard, coming off offseason back surgery, to be ready for their regular season opener on September 11th against the Houston Texans:
Update from the Colts on star LB Darius Leonard: No second surgery on his ankle, but he has been having back issues that require surgery. Operation is today. He’ll miss some camp time but the team’s expectation is he’s ready for the regular season.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) June 7, 2022
However, it now appears that maybe that (overly optimistic?) expected return to the field has slightly shifted to a potential later date during the first half of training camp:
Colts All-pro LB Shaquille (Darius) Leonard watched practice in street clothes as he recovers from June back surgery.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) August 9, 2022
I’m told there is no set return timetable but per source they do expect him back at “some point” this year. 17-game season. They’ll need him but won’t rush him.
Maybe I’m reading too much between the lines, but “at some point” doesn’t seem nearly as encouraging that Leonard will be ready for the opener, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not time to panic yet—as this situation remains entirely fluid, and it’s still quite possible that Leonard can return early on this season, if not necessarily even for the opener per se. The Colts may be able to ‘buy some time’ until Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs at home on September 25th (playing the Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars during the first two weeks of the season, but at Jacksonville is never easy for the franchise).
Back surgeries are always tricky, and this isn’t something to rush for one of the Colts cornerstone defensive players who plays an incredibly physically demanding position—with nearly constant contact on each play. The Colts defense needs Leonard healthy and at full strength to truly ascend into an elite defensive unit—as the squad’s undisputed top playmaker and arguably best player.
However, it does raise the question of whether his expected return is starting to at least slightly shift to a later date with the regular season opener just a little over a month away.