Insider Reveals New Surgery for Colts LB Shaquille Leonard: Report

Shaquille Leonard

Getty Former Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard.

The Indianapolis Colts are back in the playoff hunt after breaking their 3-game losing streak in Week 10. But if the Colts are still going to make a run at the playoffs in 2022, they will have to do it without All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on November 15 that Leonard underwent successful back surgery on Tuesday morning. Rapoport tweeted that the hope is that the procedure will further fix the issues he’s been experiencing in his left calf and ankle over the past year and a half.

But the surgery is expected to rule Leonard out for the rest of the season.

Leonard has played 3 games during the 2022 season. In those contests, he posted 11 combined tackles, including 8 solos with 1 interception and 1 pass defense.

The End of a Rough Season for Leonard

Things started on the wrong foot for Leonard in 2022, and now looking back, they never got better.

Leonard missed offseason workouts because of lingering ailments from the 2021 season. He played the entire campaign with pain in his left calf and ankle, but the injuries were viewed outside the Colts organization as minor because he played through the pain to record 122 combined tackles, 4 interceptions and a league-leading 8 forced fumbles during 2021.

But then Leonard surprisingly underwent back surgery on June 7. Then Colts head coach Frank Reich explained to the media the day of his surgery that the linebacker was believed to be feeling pain in his left leg because of a problem with a nerve in his back. The offseason back surgery intended to fix that.

Reich did not give an exact timeline for Leonard’s return, but a week after his surgery, The Athletic’s Zak Keefer reported that the team expected the linebacker to be ready near the start of training camp.

In reality, Leonard didn’t return until August 31, the day after the Colts cut their roster down to 53 players. The linebacker avoided injured reserve, but then he didn’t play until Week 4 against the Tennessee Titans.

All indications were that Leonard’s back and left leg were fine in his season debut, but during the second quarter, he suffered a hit to the head, which gave him a concussion and broken nose. Leonard missed the next 3 games healing from those injuries.

The linebacker returned in Week 8 and intercepted a pass against the Washington Commanders. He also played the following week, but his snap count was limited in both games.

Then, Leonard suffered a setback in practice while preparing for Week 10.

“He came off the field Wednesday and just felt different,” interim head coach Jeff Saturday said on November 11. “So they scanned him, and they’re working with him.

“They’re evaluating him in the training room and trying to get him help.”

What’s Next For Leonard?

While the Colts are on the outside of the playoff picture at the moment, they are in the hunt after the Week 10 victory against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Colts would have loved to get Leonard back for the stretch run, but even if that was possible, that probably wasn’t the best idea.

Indianapolis placed Leonard on injured reserve ahead of Week 10. That means he has to miss at least the next three games, and then the Colts have a bye in Week 14.

So at the very earliest, Leonard was eligible to return for the matchup against the Minnesota Vikings the week before Christmas.

At that point, there would only be four games remaining. By the time Leonard rehabbed again and regained his form well enough in practice to return to game action, the Colts could be out of the playoff picture or the season could just flat out be finished.

Keefer laid out seemingly the best-case scenario for Leonard after his second surgery of the season.

The Colts miss Leonard’s dynamic playmaking ability, but he probably wouldn’t be able to offer that with a quick return anyway. And Indianapolis linebackers Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed have done well in Leonard’s place this season.

They will have to do for the rest of 2022. Right now, Leonard’s top priority should be his long-term health.

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