It’s been a season to forget for Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard.
But it doesn’t sound like he will be forgetting about it, or what people have been saying about him and his injury recovery timeline, anytime soon.
And when the time comes for his return, Leonard plans to be back better than ever.
“I am still ‘The Maniac,'” Leonard said in an interview with Colts reporter Nate Atkins of The Indianapolis Star. “I believe I still have the capability of going out there and making plays.
“I keep the receipts of everything anyone’s ever said about me, and I’m looking at the tweets, I’m seeing everything, and I’m just ready to go out and prove everybody wrong once again.”
Leonard only played 3 games this year. With the decision to place him on IR, the 2022 campaign will officially become the first season of Leonard’s 5-year career where he won’t make an All-Pro team.
Leonard Back to the Beginning of His Recovery?
The 3-time first-team All-Pro linebacker underwent his first back surgery this year on June 7. He had the procedure done in the hopes of fixing a nerve that was causing pain in his left calf and ankle.
Then Colts head coach Frank Reich didn’t give an exact timeline for Leonard’s return immediately after the surgery, but The Athletic’s Zak Keefer reported that Indianapolis expected the linebacker to return not long after the beginning of training camp.
As it turned out, Leonard was back on the practice field at the very end of camp on August 31. But even that may have been too soon.
“Maybe I pushed it a little too quick,” Leonard said. “Now I have time for actual true rest and to get the proper treatment and recovery for this injury. Hopefully come OTAs, I’ll be ready to rock and roll.”
The linebacker admitted to Atkins that undergoing the second procedure makes it “feel like I’m back to square one” but time is now on Leonard’s side. There are several months before the start of voluntary OTAs, which will give him the opportunity to truly come back slowly without feeling the pressure that comes with missing games.
Preparing For the Right Time to Return
With the chip Leonard has played with his entire career, it’s easy to understand that the linebacker sees his doubters and wants to prove them wrong immediately.
But Leonard now seems to understand that that can’t happen right away. First, he needs something else.
“It’s just rest and letting the body heal,” Leonard said. “Hopefully the nerves can get back right. I’m just making sure I’m staying prepared mentally and emotionally and then, when the time comes, physically.”
The next question, of course, is when that time will come. The Colts may have gotten that time wrong, pushing him to return too soon, this season. It would be prudent of Indianapolis to be cautious with Leonard next spring and summer.
But when the time is right, Leonard will be ready to use those “receipts” to help him become “The Maniac” once again.