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Indianapolis Colts star Shaquille Leonard (back) expected to miss significant time in 2022

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard is without a timetable to return from offseason back surgery and will now reportedly miss significant time during the 2022 NFL season.

The Colts placed their All-Pro linebacker on the Physically Unable to Perform list at the start of training camp. Formerly known as Darius Leonard, the 6-foot-2 NFL star underwent back surgery before July. At the time, the expectation was he could return before training camp concludes and he would be on the field for Week 1.

  • Shaquille Leonard stats (2021): 75 solo tackles, eight pass deflections, eight forced fumbles

However, Leonard couldn’t provide reporters with a timetable for his return to the field. While he said that he was immediately feeling better after the surgery and it improved a leg issue that bothered him in 2021, he wasn’t sure exactly when he would be cleared to return.

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“The way I’m going, I’m very happy. Get ready to rock n roll when time comes.”

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard on his recovery from back surgery

Now, according to Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network, Leonard remains without any clear timetable for a return. Furthermore, he is expected to miss the start of the regular season with a possible return date only being penciled in at “some point” this year.

Impact of Shaquille Leonard injury on Indianapolis Colts defense

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Fortunately, the long-term prognosis for Leonard is positive. The surgery was done to correct disc and nerve issues, which helped cause the calf and ankle injuries he dealt with before. Once he is cleared to play, Leonard should be able to move more freely without being hindered by leg problems.

  • Shaquille Leonard contract: $11.16 million cap hit (2022), $20.21 million cap hit (2023)

However, any time Leonard misses will greatly impact the Colts’ defense. He led the NFL in forced fumbles (eight) last year and is one of the best NFL players at creating turnovers. In addition, Leonard is an elite run defender as highlighted by his 91.1 PFF run defense grade last season.

During his absence, Indianapolis will be forced to rely upon inside linebacker Bobby Okereke. He primarily made an impact as a pass rusher this past season, but was also credited with 102 solo tackles. A third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Stanford, replacing Leonard with Okereke is a massive downgrade for the Colts’ run defense.

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