The bad news is that Leonard will be eased into training camp practices, meaning he may not be fully cleared for contact from the get-go (via Fox59/CBS4’s Mike Chappell):
Shaquille Leonard - passed his physical. will be eased into practice. Slow but sure. No real time line for when he's cleared for contact. https://t.co/qzqiHoo5l5— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) July 25, 2023
It does not mean that Leonard suffered a setback in his recovery from a second back surgery by any means, but if Colts fans feel snakebitten by lingering injuries and lengthy rehabilitations, you can’t really blame them at this juncture given what’s transpired before.
More than likely, the Colts and Leonard are being overly cautious with his return to the field and for full contact, as Leonard admittedly felt like he rushed his recovery last offseason before playing and eventually shutting it down for the season—looking like a far cry from himself.
To be fair too, the Colts are still well equipped at linebacker with Leonard limited, having both Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed in the fold, and expected to play a lot of passing subpackages defensively these days. (Although it will be interesting to see which third linebacker emerges in certain run-heavy base packages.)
Leonard’s ongoing recovery is one of the biggest storylines of camp, as if he’s eventually back to being ‘The Maniac,’ it gives the Colts arguably their best player defensively—a dynamic linebacker with sideline-to-sideline playmaking and a turnover generating machine with his special ability to punch out footballs.
While him fully regaining his former form is certainly not guaranteed, especially given the nature of the injury, I’m not going to be the one to bet against ‘The Maniac’—you can be.