It was all good just two weeks ago. Then, colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard returned to the lineup after suffering a concussion and broken nose due to friendly fire in the week four matchup against the Titans. Fast forward to today: all-pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard is set to miss the remainder of the season.
Colts Linebacker Has Off-Season Back Surgery And Returns
After the 2021 season, Shaquille had back surgery for a pinched nerve that was believed to be the cause of his calf/ankle issue. While fighting through discomfort, Shaquille managed to force eight fumbles and intercept four passes, helping the Colts create 33 takeaways.
Update from the Colts on star LB Darius Leonard: No second surgery on his ankle, but he has been having back issues that require surgery. Operation is today. He’ll miss some camp time but the team’s expectation is he’s ready for the regular season. — Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) June 7, 2022
On June 7, 2022, Shaquille underwent his first back surgery to correct a nerve issue doctors believed was affecting his calf/ankle. The belief was that he would be back by Week One, but he did not return until Week Four. During the game against the Titans, Colts fans likely thought Leonard was back. Then, friendly fire from Zaire Franklin knocked him out of the lineup again. Shaquille left the game with a concussion and a broken nose.
Shaquille returned to the lineup in Week Eight against the Washington Commanders. He played 24 of the 61 defensive snaps and ended with four tackles and an interception.
#Colts Shaquille Leonard is back‼️ pic.twitter.com/T2sT1rwkG9 — NFL Unlimited (@NFLUnlimited) October 30, 2022
The following week against the Patriots, he played in 34 of the 63 defensive snaps, so it seemed he was trending in the right direction. Shaquille had five tackles against the Patriots. This resurgence gave Colts fans hope that they had gotten our all-pro linebacker back for the remainder of the season.
Even though Leonard was making some plays, he has not looked like himself in the three games he’s played. He has not regained his quick, explosive movement back, and that could be because of the lack of responsiveness in his calf due to the nerve issue.
The Colts Put Leonard On IR And Another Surgery Is In Sight
Heading into Week Ten, Shaquille Leonard was not on the injury report on Wednesday. However, Thursday, his name appeared on the report for a back/ankle injury, and he did not participate in practice after suffering a setback in practice on Wednesday.
Our final practice report for #INDvsLV. pic.twitter.com/mOtQ8y6Ux3 — Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) November 11, 2022
Friday, Shaquille logged another DNP (Did Not Participate), and news came out that he was out for the game on Sunday. On Saturday, it was reported that he was heading to IR and would at least be out for four games and would undergo further evaluations to see if it would require more time. Yesterday, Shaquille met with renowned neck surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles.
Today, word dropped that Shaquille had undergone his second back surgery and would miss the remainder of the season. The hope is that this surgery will be the one that corrects the issue and allows Leonard to return to all-pro form in the 2023 season.
Source: #Colts All-Pro LB Shaquille Leonard underwent successful season-ending back surgery this morning after several evaluations. Leonard is on Injured Reserve, and the hope is the procedure fixes his issue for good. pic.twitter.com/Gjer1WUQDY — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 15, 2022
Will this be the surgery that corrects everything for Shaquille moving forward, or will this be the beginning of the end for the all-pro? A few players have made it back from back surgeries:
Tony Romo had back surgery to correct a herniated disc, resulting in a pinched nerve and a lower leg injury. He played in 2014; the Cowboys went 12-3. Romo completed 69.9%, 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. In 2015, he played in 4 games before he broke his clavicle and missed the rest of the season.
Arian Foster had a similar issue as Tony Romo and had surgery in 2013. He returned and played three more seasons in the NFL. In 2014, Foster ran for 1,246 yards and had 13 total touchdowns.
Peyton Manning underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2011. It was his second surgery after neck surgery in May of 2011. Peyton returned in the 2012 season for the Denver Broncos; they went 13-3. Peyton completed 68.6% of his passes for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The following year, Peyton received his fourth NFL MVP award leading one of the highest-scoring offenses that year. Again, the Broncos went 13-3; Peyton completed 68.3% of his passes for 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns, and ten interceptions.
Can Shaquille Leonard duplicate some of this success after his second back surgery? It remains to be seen, but while some are more pessimistic, I remain optimistic he will return to an all-pro level. It is up to Bobby Okereke, Zaire Franklin, and EJ Speed to hold down the second line.