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Indianapolis star Shaquille Leonard is ready for football, but suffers on the sideline

Darius Leonard Colts Super Bowl
Indianapolis star Shaquille Leonard is ready for football, but suffers on the sideline

The linebacker has not participated in team activities since the Colts fell apart last year in Jacksonville, turning a potentially successful season into a disaster.

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“Heck, he’s pretty upset,” – said Zair Franklin, who is vying for the starting linebacker spot in Leonard’s absence. – “He misses the action. He misses the tour and the usual pregame routine. I know what’s bothering him: the fact that he’s not with the guys. But I regularly tell him, “Dude, get better so this experience does not happen again.”

Leonard dominated despite nagging injuries to his left ankle. His leg ached constantly and recalled itself with every serious strain, but he played. En route to his third-team All-Pro First Team selection, Leonard collected an NFL-record 8 forced fumbles, as well as 4 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. However, the league did not fully recognize his performance and denied him the Defender of the Year title. Moreover, Leonard did not receive a single vote, which is all the more surprising.

Despite having undergone spinal surgery in June to treat a nerve problem in his left ankle, Franklin believes Leonard is capable of more.

“If you are playing that well, even though your health allows you to play at 70 or 80 percent, what can you do when you are playing at full strength?” – Franklin said. – “I am sure we will find out soon.”

In his long and difficult rehabilitation, Franklin has seen Leonard “working on the field.” But with each passing day, the defender’s status becomes more important and more significant. There is no news from the team. Will Shaquille be available to the coaching staff on opening day when the Colts play at Houston on Sept. 11?

“We are working on all kinds of scenarios. I am optimistic about the future and hope he’ll be ready. But a different game plan will have to be prepared if Leonard can not be on the field, ” – Indianapolis coach Frank Reich said. – “It’s always better to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Shaq prepares that way when he plays Week 1. He has a lot of extra work. And he’s preparing for a full-fledged start to the season.”

Within two days of training with Detroit together, it was clear Leonard’s mind was already on the field and his body was trying to catch up.

Leonard is currently on the preseason roster PUP. And if he stays there when the Colts reduce their roster to the required 53 players by Aug. 30, he will have to miss the first four games of the regular season. Or Indianapolis may activate Leonard, knowing they can use him again in a shorter period of time, such as a game or two. It all depends on the progress of the star linebacker’s health recovery.

Ideally, Leonard will one day hit the green field wearing shoulder pads, a helmet and a mask instead of a baseball cap and sunglasses. But until then, the team lives on without him.

“It frustrates him that all the preparation is so close to the end, but will not be completed in any way, and I keep telling him,” Man, you just have to be patient a little longer,” – said Franklin. – “And I also said, “The worst thing that can happen is to play through pain again, like last year, when something is preventing you from giving your best and enjoying the process.”

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