INDIANAPOLIS — Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard has made ‘incremental progress’ in his return from back surgery, but still can’t ‘play winning football and feel confident’, coach Frank Reich said Friday.
Leonard was ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs despite having worked out with the Colts for the past three weeks, raising questions about the three-time All-Star first-team selection schedule.
For the first time in weeks, Reich has spoken widely about Leonard’s status, saying the team is conducting its own assessment of the linebacker’s ability to return to the game and is closely watching the player’s coaching.
“It was a collaborative decision,” Reich said. “But obviously the player is the one who has to play. Only he really knows that feeling. So, we watch the tape and we can see that when you look at last year’s or the previous year’s tape versus the present tape, you’re watching him move , we’re doing it. It’s not the same. We need it to look the same. From our perspective, we need the tape to look the way you did when you were relatively healthy.
“That’s one side. The other side of Shaq is that he needs to feel it. So, that’s where the collaboration comes in.”
Leonard underwent back surgery in June to address lower body pain caused by nerve problems. While Leonard and the Colts say the surgery solved the problem, recovering from the surgery has been a long process.
“This time, it was a bear,” Reich said. “He’s fighting and scratching every single moment to get back on the court. I promise you. He’s doing everything he can to get back on the court. It’s killing him.” Colts consider putting Leonard in the body too soon A bench roster unavailable or injured, but those options would prevent him from practicing with the team.
“We know that when you don’t do anything else, everyone thinks [he’s playing] Week 1, week 2,” Reich said. “It was a gamble that the last step was going to go faster than planned, but everything went according to plan. It’s a serious injury, he’s dealing with it the right way, he’s got the right attitude and we’re going to continue down that line. “
Elsewhere, the Colts got positive injury news with expected returns from receivers Michael Pittman (quad) and Alec Pierce (concussion). According to Reich, Pittman was “ready.” Pierce, Reich said, cleared his concussion protocol on Thursday and will play.
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (back) will be listed as questionable.