INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said today that linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) have been ruled out of Sunday's Week 3 game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Three players — wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quad), running back Marlon Mack (calf) and running back Jonathan Williams (rib) — are also questionable heading into the matchup.
» Leonard started feeling concussion-like symptoms after last Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, and has since been placed in the league's concussion protocol. He would've needed to advance through the required protocol steps — as well as be cleared by an independent league neurologist — to be able to play. Two rookies — Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed — could take Leonard's reps in his absence on Sunday, though the team could very well mix and match at its three linebacker spots. While Speed is listed as Leonard's backup at the WILL linebacker spot on the team's unofficial depth chart, Okereke can also play there, or defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus could choose to move Anthony Walker from MIKE linebacker to the WILL, and put Okereke at MIKE.
» Sheard returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time in nearly two months after experiencing "soreness and swelling" in his knee during the very first training camp practice on July 25, which was followed up with a minor surgical procedure. The team decided against placing Sheard on injured reserve to open the regular season, which would've resulted in him missing at least the first eight weeks; he has since missed the Colts' first two regular season games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Titans. Sheard was a limited participant both on Wednesday and Thursday. With Sheard sidelined, the Colts have turned to Al-Quadin Muhammad to start in his place at defensive end. Muhammad has responded to the challenge, and has six total tackles (two for a loss) with one sack and a forced fumble to this point.
Among those listed as questionable:
» Hilton first appeared on the injury report Wednesday with a quad issue, and was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. The eighth-year veteran, who is tied for the league lead with three receiving touchdowns, has 12 receptions for 130 yards (10.8 avg.) in all through two games this season. Hilton being limited or out Sunday against the Falcons likely means added reps for the four receivers behind him: Deon Cain, Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers.
» Mack first appeared on the injury report Wednesday with a calf issue, and missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday. The league's third-leading rusher entering Week 3 action, Mack could be spelled by a mixture of second-year backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins if he's unable to go or limited Sunday against the Falcons. It was Wilkins who relieved Mack at times last Sunday in Indy's road victory over the Tennessee Titans, as the Ole Miss product collected a team-best 82 yards on five carries for an impressive 16.2 yards-per-carry average. Another option at running back Sunday could be fourth-year Arkansas product Jonathan Williams, who has missed the first two games of the season with a rib injury.
» Williams last Thursday was able to participate in his first practice in about three weeks after suffering a rib injury in the Colts' second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, but he was still inactive last Sunday in Tennessee for a second straight game to open the season. He was a limited participant Wednesday but had his first full practice on Thursday. It's yet to be seen how the Colts would utilize their backfield if all four running backs were available on gameday; the team typically had three backs active throughout last season.
Here is Friday's practice report, with their designation for Sunday's game (if applicable):
» DNP: DT/DE Denico Autry (ankle); T Anthony Castonzo (not injury related; rest); S Clayton Geathers (not injury related; rest); DE Justin Houston (not injury related; rest); LB Darius Leonard (concussion; out)
» Limited: WR T.Y. Hilton (quad; questionable); RB Marlon Mack (calf; questionable); DE Jabaal Sheard (knee; out)
» Full: QB Jacoby Brissett (knee); CB Pierre Desir (knee); DE Al-Quadin Muhammad (shoulder); WR Zach Pascal (shoulder); DE Kemoko Turay (neck); RB Jonathan Williams (rib; questionable)