Shaquille Leonard

Colts LB Shaquille Leonard Undergoes Season-Ending Surgery

Shaquille Leonard underwent a second back surgery this year, going under the knife Tuesday morning. This procedure will knock him out for the rest of the season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

The Colts placed the three-time All-Pro on IR last week, after he endured a setback with the injury that has defined his year. Leonard will attempt to complete a successful recovery and return to his top form by the 2023 season.

This news will wrap Leonard’s 2022 season after three games. Leonard played through this back issue in 2021, a season in which he led the league with eight forced fumbles and secured his third first-team All-Pro honor. But he underwent surgery early this summer. That operation was not believed to threaten Leonard’s Week 1 availability, but he did not debut until Week 4. The cornerstone Colts linebacker will have more time to recovery from his latest procedure.

Even after Leonard returned to the field this season, other injury issues plagued him. The former Division I-FCS standout suffered a concussion and a nose injury this season; he ended up undergoing surgery to repair the nose issue last month. His 2022 slate closes with 11 tackles, a pass deflection and an interception. Leonard, 27, never received a full complement of snaps in a game this season; he ended up seeing action on just 74 defensive snaps in 2022.

The Colts have managed to stay near the top of the league defensively despite Leonard’s absence. Gus Bradley‘s unit ranks fourth in total defense this season. The previous four Colts defenses have benefited greatly from Leonard’s presence. Becoming one of the league’s best defensive players, Leonard already has 17 career forced fumbles, 15 career sacks and 12 career picks. The production from 2018-20 secured Leonard a five-year, $98.5MM extension. That deal remains the highwater mark among off-ball linebackers.

It will be interesting to see how Leonard’s supporting cast looks when he is healthy enough to play again. Bobby Okereke may be in the process of pricing himself out of a second Colts contract. The former third-round pick has followed up a 132-tackle 2021 with 86 stops through 10 games this season. Pro Football Focus ranks Okereke and E.J. Speed as top-10 linebackers this season. Okereke and Speed are eligible for free agency in March. The Colts took care of former Zaire Franklin — a former seventh-round pick who has been a full-time player for this Indianapolis edition — this past offseason.

Colts Activate WR Ashton Dulin, Place LB Shaquille Leonard On IR

NOVEMBER 13: Leonard may miss the remainder of the season, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. The 27-year-old ‘backer is scheduled to meet with renowned neck surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles on Monday, which will provide some clarity on his playing status.

NOVEMBER 12: The Colts are getting some reinforcement on offense and special teams. The team has activated wide receiver/special teams ace Ashton Dulin from injured reserve. To make room on the roster, the team officially placed linebacker Shaquille Leonard on IR. The Colts have also promoted tight end Nikola Kalinic and running back Jordan Wilkins from the practice squad.

Dulin suffered a foot injury back in October, landing him on injured reserve. He returned to practice earlier this week. The 25-year-old made a name for himself in 2021 after earning a second-team All-Pro nod on special teams, with his 17 ST tackles ranking second in the league. Dulin also started to see a larger role on offense in 2021, finishing with 13 catches for 173 yards and two scores. Dulin was continuing to see a role on offense in 2022, with the wideout hauling in 12 catches for 168 yards in five games (one start).

We learned yesterday that Leonard had suffered a setback with his back injury during practice this week. The injury will now knock him out for at least four games. The linebacker has been limited to only three games in 2022 thanks to a concussion, nose surgery, and back injury.

“I had no power in my leg, just trying to fight through that through the whole season and Wednesday practice, something didn’t feel right,” Leonard said on Instagram (via The Athletic’s James Boyd on Twitter). “I had a setback.”

Wilkins, a 2018 fifth-round pick by the Colts, has seen a reduced role in recent years following three consecutive 300-plus-yard seasons to begin his career. The 28-year-old has seen time in one game for Indy this season, getting seven touches for 28 yards. Kalinic was a former second-round pick in the CFL. After spending the preseason with the Colts, he landed on the organization’s practice squad.

Colts To Place LB Shaquille Leonard On IR

Shaquille Leonard‘s difficult season will include another extended injury absence. The Colts are placing their top linebacker on injured reserve, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Leonard, who has only been active for three games this season, suffered a setback with his back injury during practice this week. It will lead to at least a four-game absence. It is not a lock Leonard comes back when first eligible, which would be Week 15, as this back problem has lingered for a while.

This has been a rough year for Leonard, who has dealt with three separate injury issues. A concussion and a nose surgery have impacted the All-Pro defender, but the back issue has represented Leonard’s main 2022 hindrance. After playing through back and lower-body trouble last season, Leonard underwent back surgery early in the summer.

The Colts expected Leonard to be ready for Week 1; he was not. Leonard, 27, did not debut this season until Week 4. During that game, he sustained a concussion. The Colts did not place Leonard on IR ahead of the season; his importance to the team dictated a week-to-week strategy.

After drafting Leonard in the 2018 second round, the Colts have seen him become one of the league’s top linebackers. He collected three first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons, totaling an eye-opening 17 forced fumbles during a versatile start to his career. Leonard, who led the league with eight strips in 2021, parlayed his early-career success into becoming the NFL’s highest-paid off-ball linebacker. He is tied to a five-year, $98.7MM deal. The first year on that contract is not going well.

Indianapolis, which has made plenty of non-Leonard-related headlines this week, has contract-year ‘backer Bobby Okereke helping to pick up the slack. The former third-round pick ranks as a top-five non-rush ‘backer, per Pro Football Focus. The Colts also have Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed in the mix at this position. Overall, however, Leonard’s injury has epitomized one of the most disappointing seasons in the franchise’s Indianapolis history.

The Colts led the NFL with seven Pro Bowlers last season. Each of those players remains on the team. Indy also added veterans Yannick Ngakoue and Stephon Gilmore to the mix. Less than a year since those accolades rolled in, the Colts have fired coaches — most notably head coach Frank Reich — and will now be under the microscope due to replacing Reich with a head coach (Jeff Saturday) in his first week in the profession. The Colts (3-5-1) still rank fifth in total defense under new DC Gus Bradley, but the unit — already marginalized by a 32nd-ranked offense — will be tested with another Leonard hiatus coming.

Injury Updates: Cobb, Wilson, Waletzko, Leonard

The Packers and veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb were granted a silver-lining after hearing that what was feared to be a season-ending broken ankle was potentially a high ankle sprain that would require several weeks of recovery. The diagnosis of a high ankle sprain was confirmed, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, and Cobb told reporters that he “expects to return in two to six weeks,” a much more optimistic timeline than what was initially feared.

Green Bay had lost another veteran receiver when Sammy Watkins was placed on injured reserve back in September. Watkins was the team’s leading receiver at the time and now the Packers will lose their second-leading receiver as Cobb is being considered for an IR stint. With no Cobb and Watkins, and with rookie receiver Christian Watson also ailing, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has only Allen Lazard, Romeo Doubs, Amari Rodgers, and Samori Toure as targets out wide. Head coach Matt LaFleur did express some optimism that Watkins could be working his way towards a return soon, though.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the league:

  • After he suffered a hamstring injury in their game against the Chargers, Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett announced that quarterback Russell Wilson will be a gametime decision this week against the Jets, according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS. The 11th-year veteran has struggled to lead Denver to the endzone this year but still represents the team’s best chance to win by far. If Wilson is unable to suit up this week, third-year backup Brett Rypien is the next name on the depth chart. Rypien has one start on his record from his rookie season. In his starting debut from 2020, Rypien led the Broncos to a win over the Jets, completing 19 of 31 attempted passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns while also throwing three interceptions.
  • The Cowboys lost rookie fifth-round pick Matt Waletzko after only three weeks as the backup offensive lineman’s lingering left shoulder issues continued to trouble him. Waletzko knew that surgery was an inevitable outcome but delayed the procedure in an attempt to become a contributor in his rookie season, but, after three subluxations, his first year will come to an end, according to Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News. Waletzko had played in all of the team’s first three games, mostly serving on special teams units and earning one offensive snap in the team’s Week 3 win over the Giants. Dallas doesn’t have a ton of depth behind the starters on the offensive line, but backups Josh Ball, Jason Peters, and Matt Farniok provide some versatility that allow them to fill in most empty spots in the lineup.
  • Colts star linebacker Shaquille Leonard cleared concussion protocol today, according to Mike Chappell of FOX59/CBS4 Sports, but the team will still hold him out against the Titans this week. In addition to the concussion, Leonard is listed with a nose injury, which he recently had surgery on, according to Zak Keefer of The Athletic. Fourth-year linebacker E.J. Speed will continue to start in Leonard’s place as he works his way back to the field.

Colts RB Jonathan Taylor To Miss Week 5

OCTOBER 5: Taylor’s ankle injury will cause him to miss his first NFL game due to injury. The Colts have ruled out their star running back for Week 5. The reigning rushing champion, who also went through his Wisconsin career without missing a game due to injury, was wearing a walking boot at Indianapolis’ Tuesday practice, Stephen Holder of ESPN.com notes. Prior to suffering the ankle malady, Taylor was dealing with a turf toe bout. Taylor’s only previous NFL absence came in 2020 due to landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

OCTOBER 3: The Colts fell to 1-2-1 on the season Sunday, and saw their most notable player on both sides of the ball suffer injuries. Running back Jonathan Taylor picked up an ankle injury during the game, leaving his Week 5 availability in question (video link via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network). 

[RELATED: Colts LB Leonard Suffers Concussion In Week 4 Return]

Rapoport notes that the injury isn’t expected to be particularly serious, and ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter adds the reigning rushing champion has a chance to play against the Broncos on Thursday (Twitter link). However, the fact that the Colts are on a short week could leave Taylor sidelined for that contest. He underwent testing immediately following Sunday’s game, the results of which will go a long way in determining if the Colts have their top offensive weapon available.

The 2021 Offensive Player of the Year was limited to just 42 yards on 20 carries yesterday, the latest in a string of underwhelming performances for he and the Colts. On the season, Taylor has amassed 328 rushing yards on an average of 4.0 yards per carry – a far cry from the 5.5 he posted last season en route to becoming the league’s top rusher – and a single touchdown.

Should the Wisconsin product miss Thursday’s game, Nyheim Hines would take on the starter’s role. He has received just eight carries so far, resulting in 11 yards. As usual, though, he has been more effective in the passing game, posting 17 catches for 113 yards. Former UDFA Deon Jackson — who has seen just two offensive snaps this season — is next on the depth chart, though ex-Bronco Phillip Lindsay is another option on the practice squad.

The Colts’ offense has struggled throughout the campaign, and the loss of Taylor would put even more pressure on the unit. Key defenders Shaquille Leonard and Tyquan Lewis have already been ruled out for Thursday’s game, as noted by Zak Keefer of The Athletic (Twitter link). Whether or not Taylor can suit up will be a situation worth watching over the coming days.

Colts LB Shaquille Leonard Exits Week 4 Game With Concussion

4:02pm: Leonard did indeed play in today’s game, registering a pair of tackles. However, he suffered a concussion during the contest, as noted by The Athletic’s Zak Keefer (on Twitter). With the Colts scheduled to play this Thursday, it seems doubtful that Leonard would be available for Week 5.

9:28am: Colts star linebacker Shaquille Leonard is expected to make his 2022 debut against the Titans on Sunday, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). Barring a setback, Indianapolis will have its three-time First Team All-Pro assuming his familiar role as the anchor of the team’s defense.

Leonard underwent offseason back surgery to relieve the pressure that two discs in his spine were putting on his nerves. Earlier this week, Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star published an article discussing Leonard’s status, noting that some have wondered why he has not returned to game action despite having practiced for nearly a month and being listed as a full participant. Those questions intensified when Leonard was shown moving and celebrating on the video board at Lucas Oil Stadium during the Colts’ Week 3 win over the Chiefs last Sunday.

In responding to that criticism, Leonard referenced the ankle injury that required offseason surgery last year, hampered him throughout the 2021 campaign, and lingered into this past summer. “I’m going to say this, because I’ve seen it all on social media: If I’m ready to go, I’m going to play,” he said. “Everybody knows me. I went out there last year with one ankle. I love this game, I love this game with all my heart and I’d do anything to play this game for 100 years. There’s no such thing as me standing on the sideline because of me.” 

Leonard indicated he has not suited up for the first three games of the 2022 season simply because he did not believe he was ready to make a positive contribution to the defense. “People think it was just back and ankle, but there were a lot of nerve things that went wrong,” he added. “Practicing for four weeks: People have to understand, that first week was nothing but stiffness. The second week was OK, how can I cover ground? Third week, OK, let me see how can I tackle? Can I tackle in space? Can I move left and right? Can I do the things that I know I’m supposed to do? That’s what it comes down to.”

Head coach Frank Reich said that the team has been comparing Leonard’s practice tape with tape of him performing at full strength, and that review led him to conclude that Leonard was not yet close enough to his normal self to play. However, Rapoport’s report suggests that the situation has sufficiently improved over the past few days.

It goes without saying that the return of a player of Leonard’s caliber will be a significant development for the 1-1-1 Colts. Despite the ankle injury, Leonard posted 122 total tackles, four interceptions, eight passes defensed, and a league-leading eight forced fumbles in 2021.

AFC Injury Updates: Bills, Raiders, Leonard

As the Bills head to South Florida for a noon matchup against a red-hot Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, they have seen a tough challenge get tougher. Buffalo released an injury update on its website today reporting that the team expects to be without four starters: two in the secondary, in safety Micah Hyde and cornerback Dane Jackson, and two defensive tackles, Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips. Jackson, Hyde, and Phillips all left Monday night’s game with injuries, while Oliver will miss his second straight contest.

Jackson left the game last week after a collision that forced his head backwards in a scary-looking neck injury. He was taken off the field in an ambulance, but, luckily, avoided any major injury. Unfortunately, Jackson hasn’t been able to practice at all this week but has been able to be around the team at the facilities.

Hyde also suffered a neck injury, albeit a far less severe-looking injury than Jackson’s, that held him out of practice this week. Phillips left the game Monday with a hamstring injury and also was unable to practice this week. Oliver has been dealing with an ankle injury that held him out last week, as well.

Missing three starters in the secondary (cornerback Tre’Davious White remains on injured reserve) makes the prospect of facing Tagovailoa a bit more cumbersome one week after he threw for 469 yards and six touchdowns against a banged up Ravens secondary. They’ll turn to rookies Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam to fill in at cornerback with help from veteran Bills cornerbacks Taron Johnson and Siran Neal. Damar Hamlin and Jaquan Johnson will be asked to step up in Hyde’s absence, as well.

With both Phillips and Oliver out on the defensive line, it’s a good bet that the Bills will mirror their gameday practice squad call-ups from last week in defensive tackles C.J. Brewer and Brandin Bryant.

Here are a few more Sunday injury statuses we learned about today, starting with a couple of big starters out in Sin City:

  • The Raiders are set to face off against the Titans this weekend without two Pro Bowlers as wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and linebacker Denzel Perryman are officially out, according to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Hill also reports that, after missing two practices with an illness, running back Josh Jacobs is questionable to play this Sunday.
  • Despite initial reports in the preseason that Colts star linebacker Shaquille Leonard would not miss any time, the 27-year-old is set to miss his third straight game after being ruled out against the Chiefs this week, according to Mike Chappell of Indianapolis Fox59. Head coach Frank Reich told the media, “Deep down it’s the player. Deep down the player has to know he can play winning football and help this team win. That’s where we’ve got to get to.”

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.

Injury Updates: Giants, Leonard, Smith, Rivers, Sharpe

In a sequence of events that no one ever wants to see, the Giants had four players leave their final preseason game this Sunday with injuries. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor was carted off the field after a vicious hit to the chest by Jets pass rusher Micheal Clemons. New York also saw three players leave the game with concussions, but only one of them made the final roster: tight end Daniel Bellinger.

Head coach Brian Daboll has insisted that Taylor’s back injury is not serious, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com. This is great news for Giants fans who may have worries that starting quarterback Daniel Jones will continue his trend of not being able to appear in every regular season game the Giants play. Since being drafted in 2019, Jones has missed at least two games each year, sitting out of six contests over the past year alone.

The Bellinger-concussion is significant as the fourth-round rookie out of San Diego State is currently set to start at tight end for New York with Ricky Seals-Jones on injured reserve to start the year. Going into the season as a rookie starter, Bellinger needs all the practice he can get before the season opener in Nashville.

Here are a couple other injury updates from around the league, starting with some good news from the Hoosier State:

  • The Colts are thrilled to get star linebacker Shaquille Leonard back in practice after the three-time first-team All-Pro missed the entirety of training camp, according to Nick Shook of NFL Network. Indianapolis activated Leonard just before it would be forced to commit him to the reserve/physically unable to perform list to start the season. This means he won’t be forced to miss the first four games of the year after offseason back surgery, but it doesn’t rule out that he still might. General manager Chris Ballard told James Boyd of The Athletic, “I can’t give you a timeline. Maybe Week 1, maybe Week 6. We’ll work and we’ll deal with it however we gotta deal with it.”
  • The Ty Smith that will start at left tackle for the Cowboys against the Buccaneers on September 11 may not be the one Dallas’s fans were hoping for. First-round pick Tyler Smith is being forced out at tackle with incumbent starter Tyron Smith on injured reserve. The latter Smith is set to undergo surgery this Friday that will “reattach a torn hamstring tendon to his left knee,” according to Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News. The “uncommon sports injury” will likely hold the 31-year-old out until at least December.
  • Texans defensive end Derek Rivers will start the season on injured reserve after suffering a torn biceps tendon this week, according to Mark Berman of FOX Houston. Rivers earned his first career start with the Texans last year, tallying one sack on the year for Houston. The elbow injury is expected to keep Rivers out for up to three months.
  • Offseason free agent addition for the Bears wide receiver Tajae Sharpe will miss the entire 2022 season with a rib injury, according to Adam Jahns of The Athletic. The length of the absence was confirmed by head coach Matt Eberflus.

Colts Cut Roster Down To 53

Indianapolis has made a couple headline moves, but, most notably, succeeded in trimming their roster down to 53 players today. Here are the moves that helped them get down to the limit today:

Activated from active/physically unable to perform:

Released:

Waived:

Placed on IR:

The biggest stories of the day for the Colts come in the linebacking corps. In addition to adding star linebacker Leonard off the PUP, Indianapolis acquired second-year player Grant Stuard in a trade with Tampa Bay today. Stuard was primarily a special teamer with the Buccaneers last year, playing in every game as a rookie. He’ll go from one stacked linebacker room to another, likely backing up Leonard upon his arrival.

The Colts have quite an interesting rookie class. A sixth-round defensive tackle, Brooks is the only drafted rookie not to make the final roster besides sixth-round tight end Andrew Ogletree who will start his NFL career on injured reserve. None of this is spectacular, though. The interesting part is that Indianapolis will roster four undrafted rookies to start the 2022 NFL season.

Former SMU safety Trevor Denbow finds his way onto the initial 53 after leading the NFL this preseason with five special teams tackles. Cornerback Dallis Flowers can also thank his special teams value as his athleticism was supplemented by a 53-yard kickoff return to help him make the team out of Pitt State. Former Cornhusker JoJo Domann joins Leonard and Stuard in the linebackers room. And the French-Fries offensive line combination stays alive as Wesley French makes the final roster out of Western Michigan.

There were a number of other players who have special teams’ ability to thank for their roster spot in addition to Denbow and Flowers. Running back Deon Jackson played on all punt/kick return/coverage units for the Colts last year, earning him a tightly contested roster spot over Lindsay and Williams. Cornerback Tony Brown was the team’s highest-graded special teams player in the preseason, according to Pro Football Focus, and safety Rodney Thomas II played the third-most special teams snaps on the team.

Finally, the biggest performer of the Colts’ preseason was likely quarterback Sam Ehlinger whose stellar preseason led Indianapolis to roster three quarterbacks going into the season. The former-Longhorn’s impressive preseason play helped him earn a spot on the initial roster despite the Colts already rostering starter Matt Ryan and one of the league’s top backup quarterbacks in Nick Foles.

The Colts will have the opportunity tomorrow to announce any moves to form their 16-man practice squad. Players cut today who have not vested will have to clear waivers before returning to the team.