Indianapolis Colts’ Shaquille Leonard says he’s on track for first pain-free season since rookie year

INDIANAPOLIS — The 2022 season could be the first season when Colts all-pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard has a healthy left ankle.

Leonard, who trained this week for the first time since last season, said recent surgery to address a nerve problem causing pain in his lower extremity has left him pain-free for the first time since his rookie season in 2018.

Leonard corrected the record Thursday after Colts general manager Chris Ballard said Wednesday that Leonard has been feeling ill since 2019.

“They said ’19? I’d say ’18,” Leonard said. “If you think about Week 4 against Houston in 2018, I sprained my ankle, missed Week 5 against the Patriots, and then came back to the Jets, you noticed that I’ve since Just got it glued. So, it’s been a minute because that’s how I feel right now. So that’s the main thing.

Leonard underwent ankle surgery ahead of the 2021 season but was severely hampered by persistent pain throughout the season. He even started sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, going to great lengths to deal with his injuries. Leonard’s agility and speed took a noticeable hit, though he was still selected to the All-NBA First Team for the third time and led the NFL with eight forced turnovers. Surgery in 2021 resolved some issues with the ankle, but nerve problems continued to cause him pain and were not diagnosed until this summer.

In the process, Leonard learned to hurt.

“Pain is temporary, pride is forever,” he said. “If I can go, I’ll go. That’s my mindset. I just feel like even if I’m injured, if I don’t hurt the team on the field, then I think I can be there.”

But with his recovery from recent surgery lingering, Leonard is still sidelined and he’s having a hard time coping.

“Football is my happy place,” he said. “Football is my haven. It’s what I love to do. I love to compete.”

Leonard won’t commit to the season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 11. But whenever he does come back, the thought of staying healthy for the first time in years is tempting.

“I just think if Shaquille can stay healthy for a season and be able to plant and cut like he did before,” he said, “I just think I’m going to fly better and play a few more games and just be on my break. and more sober in participation [throwing] More windows. “

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