Indianapolis Colts All-Pro linebacker Shaq Leonard will practice this week before the team makes a decision on his availability for Week 1 against the Houston Texans, according to Zak Keefer, a Colts writer for The Athletic.
The Colts want to ‘see how he progresses’ when the team practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before coming to a decision, according to Keefer.
Colts' plan with regards to LB Shaq Leonard this week: have him practice all three days (Weds-Friday) and see how he progresses before making a decision on his status for Sunday in Houston. There's a chance he could play, but team needs to see him practice more first.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) September 5, 2022
Leonard recently re-joined the team for his first practice last Thursday since undergoing back surgery in June. The return to practice came sooner than expected, and it was the first major step toward Leonard potentially being available for Indianapolis’ season-opener.
Colts head coach Frank Reich spoke with local media members on Monday afternoon and, if Leonard does in fact suit up for the team’s first game of the season, Reich indicated that the team could put Leonard on a pitch count.
“No doctor has said that to me, but it feels like that might be the right thing to do,” Reich said, via the IndyStar. “My brain says, yeah, he’ll probably have a pitch count playing in his first game, but I’m not going to make it an absolute, because what you find over the years is sometimes different players respond differently.”
Having the 4x All-Pro linebacker on the field for Sunday’s game against Houston would be massive for the Colts’ defense, especially when you consider Leonard’s impact as a pass rusher and in coverage.
Of the Colts’ 33 turnovers forced in 2021 (second-best in the NFL), Leonard accounted for more than a third of those takeaways with a career-best eight forced fumbles and four interceptions.
The Colts will continue to monitor their star linebacker and have made it clear they will not rush him back to on-field action. It appears that Leonard’s improvement throughout each practice this week will be crucial when the team ultimately decides whether or not he’ll play Sunday.