Colts’ Shaquille Leonard Won’t Play Week 1

The health status of Shaquille Leonard has been one of the dominant storylines for the Colts this offseason. The All-Pro linebacker had the chance to play in the team’s season opener, but that will not happen. 

Indianapolis confirmed on Friday that Leonard is out for the Colts’ game against the Texans. Leonard continues to work his way back from offseason back surgery aimed at relieving the pain in his lower body he played through last year. Despite never being at 100%, the former second-rounder put up an All-Pro and Pro Bowl performance for the third time in his four-year career.

The procedure landed Leonard on the PUP list in July, but he and the team remained optimistic during the summer that he could be ready in time for the regular season. With his availability still clouded, the team faced the decision of activating him with the understanding that he would not be fully recovered or keeping him on the reserve list, which would have guaranteed a four-week absence.

Electing against the latter, Leonard did indeed return to practice last week. As head coach Frank Reich indicated at the time, though, it was not certain when exactly Leonard would be able to suit up. Today’s announcement does not breed any increased optimism that a Week 2 return is likelier than it was earlier in the week. The substantial impact Leonard has on the team, and the significant compensation he is still owed make a cautious approach the logical one for all involved.

In Leonard’s absence, the Colts will lean more heavily on starters Zaire Franklin and Bobby Okereke at the second level of their defense. Grant Stuard, JoJo Domann and E.J. Speed will also likely see increased usage.

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