According to The MMQB’s Albert Breer, everyone around Colts camp has been ‘raving’ about former NFL All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard’s recovery from a second back surgery to finally correct a lingering nerve issue in his lower half:
“Everyone’s raving about Shaq Leonard’s comeback from a debilitating back injury in 2023, as early returns are that he looks phenomenal and is playing free after a really difficult 2022,” writes Breer.
“Leonard was a 5 a.m. regular at the Colts facility in the spring, which allowed him to get his rehab in, and still be around for all of Indy’s team stuff. And that he looks so good is great news for a team that lost Bobby Okereke in the offseason. Also, Zaire Franklin really played well in Leonard’s absence last year, and has had a really nice offseason.”
Despite the Colts initially indicating that Leonard would be limited to begin training camp—as the team would take a cautious approach with its star linebacker, Leonard has nearly been a full participant in training camp practices to-date, with only some slight restrictions:
Colts LB Shaquille Leonard participating in all periods of today’s first practice (including full team) might be the best news the Colts have gotten in a LONG time. I cannot overstate this. pic.twitter.com/U3xlCURMKz— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) July 26, 2023
Shaquille Leonard suited up for the first day of pads today but sat out from the 11-on-11 portion.— Nate Atkins (@NateAtkins_) July 31, 2023
They’re easing him back in after the second back surgery, but he’s moving well.
“He’s looked great,” Colts head coach Shane Steichen said of Leonard on Monday via Kevin Bowen of 1075 The Fan. “We just want to do it the right way. We just want to be smart with him.”
Perhaps even more important than Leonard’s participation, is how he’s looked at Colts camp so far—as he’s shown flashes of being the very fast, agile, and explosive athlete he was before his initial surgery during the offseason of 2022:
Third straight practice for Shaquille Leonard: pic.twitter.com/S3dfsYhauI— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) July 29, 2023
For Leonard, it’s been a long and extensive road in his ensuing recovery and rehabilitation from a second back surgery, but he indicated that ‘it’s the best he’s felt in a long time’:
Colts LB Shaq Leonard's diligent summer program included commuting between weekdays training in Tampa and weekends with his wife & young daughters in SC. @dsleon45 tells @MayTayColts that Mon-Fri included training, physical therapy and working with a neurological specialist.— Larra Overton (@LarraOverton) July 31, 2023
For the Colts, those ‘rave reviews’ so far in camp are an encouraging sign that ‘The Maniac’ may finally return—following a limited season in which he didn’t quite look like himself before undergoing a consecutive (and season-ending) back surgery.
If ‘Shaq is back,’ the Colts will return one of their best players to a defense that could use his dynamic playmaking and personality—always bringing the juice.