The week following the final preseason game is one of the toughest in the NFL. Essentially firing people from their jobs, as teams have to cut their rosters down to 53 players, is never an easy thing to do. Players have played their hearts out for the last few weeks in the August heat trying to earn a spot on the roster, but it is part of the business of being in the NFL. That job gets a little more complicated when you are dealing with players that are injured. That is the case for the Indianapolis Colts, who are trying to figure out a timetable for their All-Pro linebacker, Shaquille Leonard, to return to the field.
The tackling machine formerly known as Darius underwent surgery on his back in June and there haven’t really been any concrete updates since on when he could get back on the field. He did take part in an on-field workout prior to the team’s final preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which head coach Frank Reich called “very encouraging.’
Alas, with cutdowns coming Tuesday, the Colts have to figure out what they are going to do with Leonard. Right now he is on the active/physically unable to perform list, which means he isn’t guaranteed to miss any regular season games. However, if he is moved to the reserve/physically unable to perform list, he will be forced to miss at least the first four games of the season.
Reich has been encouraged by the work that Leonard has done to get himself ready to return to the field. Even if Leonard isn’t ready to appear in regular season games, getting him off the PUP list will at least mean he can practice with the team.
“Shaq, we were just talking about this — from the start of OTAs, from the start of training camp, has been the consummate pro. His maturity as a leader, his maturity as a professional, has been on full display. I don’t think he could’ve done one ounce more or one thing more any better to prepare himself to have the quickest comeback that he can have.
“So now it’s just a question of when he can get cleared to get off of PUP and get back on the practice field, and then how long is that gonna take once he gets back on the practice field? I’m not sure the number of days. We could project about that. I think that’s probably not worth doing. I just know this: Shaq has done everything possible to make [his recovery] time, whatever that time is, as short as possible. He’s been a great pro and a great leader.”
Today is essentially the deadline for when the Colts will have to decide if Leonard will be part of the active 53-man roster or not. If they do not believe he will be ready by Week 1 or 2, they will likely place him on the PUP list so that they can add another player to the roster until he is healthy enough to return.