Linebacker Shaquille Leonard cleared concussion protocol on Thursday, taking the final step toward opening the 2023 season on the field with the Colts in Sunday's season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Leonard appeared in the Colts' preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills and sustained a concussion during a mid-August joint practice with the Chicago Bears. He hasn't played in a regular season game since Nov. 6, 2022 – he underwent a second procedure following that Week 9 game to address lingering nerve pain and missed the remainder of the season.
While he's been working long, grueling hours to get back on the field, Leonard's paid attention to what's been said about him – and, as he has his entire career, is using it as motivation.
"Just understanding there's so many people that's rooting for me to fail," Leonard said, "and it's my job to to come out here and prove them guys wrong."
The three-time first-team AP All-Pro linebacker said he's pleased with where he's at a few days before the season opener. And now that he's cleared concussion protocol, the path is cleared for him to get on the field – and be the takeaway-forcing "Maniac" he's proven to be over the course of his career.
"I feel like it's getting closer to (being) the guy back in '19," Leonard said. "I'm happy with where I'm at. Just gotta continue to get better from there."
Thursday's practice report