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NFL Combine Notebook: Non-Quarterback Updates On Free Agency, Shaquille Leonard, Returning Colts Players

Most of the questions Chris Ballard fielded on Wednesday at the NFL Combine were about quarterbacks, but he did offer some noteworthy insight into a handful of other positions ahead of the start of free agency in less than two weeks. 


Wrapping up a few items from Chris Ballard's press conference on Wednesday at the Indianapolis Convention Center...

And update on Shaquille Leonard. Leonard is about four months removed from undergoing a procedure to address the nerve issues that not only limited him to three games in 2022, but that he'd dealt with for years. It was the second procedure Leonard underwent in 2022, with the first coming in June – and about four months later, Leonard made his season debut.

But Leonard still wasn't feeling right when took the field in Week 4 of the 2022 season. For one, he didn't have any power in his left leg, he said.

On Wednesday, Ballard said Leonard is in a different – and better – spot four months out from his last procedure.

"He's made progress," Ballard said. "But it's a day by day thing and he just continues to work through it. We'll hope for the best. I know he's working hard and doing everything he can to get back right."

Back in January, Leonard said he's started to feel "tingles" down his left leg. His offseason plan is to be intentional in how he builds up strength in his leg. And he also expressed confidence that he'll not only get on the field again – but when he does, he'll be the turnover-creating Maniac we're used to seeing.

"As of right now, I have zero doubt in my mind that I will be back to being me," Leonard said. "I know that I will and I can't wait to come back out here, compete and prove everybody wrong. I love this game, I love to compete, I love to play and I love to prove everybody wrong. I'm looking forward to that opportunity."

The state of the Colts' roster. Ballard made clear in his January end-of-season press conference that the Colts need to improve their roster after a 4-12-1 season – but that the team does not have a talent deficiency. With free agency approaching in less than two weeks, and the NFL Draft starting in eight weeks, there will be opportunities to add to the talent the Colts already have. And this is not a team lacking the kind of players, specifically on offense, that are more than talented enough to fit any scheme.

"I know everybody thinks we don't we don't have any players. And that's a good thing. I want that narrative to keep driving down," Ballard said. "Because I still think (Jonathan) Taylor's a really good player. I still think Quenton Nelson's a really good player. I really like our tight end group. I think we got two really good wideouts. I still think Braden Smith is a really good freakin' player. It's not like we're devoid – it doesn't matter the scheme for those guys. I think Jonathan Taylor could play in any scheme. I think Quenton Nelson could play in any scheme. That's not going to affect how we move forward."

View photos from behind the scenes at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

On the wideouts. Parris Campbell and Ashton Dulin are set to become unrestricted free agents, and the Colts are still in the process of working through things on their internal free agents. But building on the Colts having "two really good wideouts" – Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce – Ballard said the team will still be looking to add at that position in the coming weeks and months. "We like both of those guys," Ballard said. "And I think both of them got really bright futures. But there's no question as place we need to add some depth."

Defensive line outlook. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the NFL's negotiating window opens on Monday, March 13. Here's how Ballard views the Colts' entire defensive line as March begins, emphasizing the need for depth: "We need to do a good job of making sure we got to eight nine man rotation," Ballard said. "Really like how Kwity (Paye) and Dayo (Odeyingbo) came on. Those two kids, they're still young players and they're starting to come on. Of course we're going to continue to add and look to add. Yannick ended up having a really good year for us last year, and it was it was great to have him here in Indy and we'll see what happens going forward. But we'll continue to always try to have eight, nine defensive linemen that we can roll in and out."

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