Colts head coach Frank Reich said last week that Indianapolis is hopeful and optimistic that linebacker Shaquille Leonard will be available to open the regular season.
But even if Leonard — who is recovering from undergoing back surgery in June — is able to play Week One, he might not be at full strength.
“I think when he gets cleared, he’s not going to be 100 percent and he’s going to have to work his way back into it,” Reich said on Thursday, via Stephen Holder of ESPN. “This has happened to everybody. All the great ones. I remember back in 2008, Peyton [Manning] had the knee [injury] and he played the first four games and he was a mere shell of [himself]. But we still found ways to win those games. He found ways to play winning football until he, around Week Five or Week Six, hit his stride.
“So, my guess is that whenever [Leonard] gets cleared, it’s going to be the same way. He’s going to have to figure out how to play feeling the way he feels — not feeling 100 percent, feeling like maybe this isn’t all the way back but I still gotta figure out how to play winning football.”
Reich has previously said Leonard is preparing like he’s going to be ready for Week One.
Leonard has been a first-team All-Pro in three of his first four seasons. He’s also been a Pro Bowler in each of the last three years.
In 16 games in 2021, Leonard recorded 122 tackles, four tackles for loss, three QB hits, four interceptions, and a league-leading eight forced fumbles.