WESTFIELD, Ind. – The focus for Shaquille Leonard and the Colts is still taking things slow with getting the three-time All-Pro linebacker back into action during training camp. But Leonard took a significant step on Saturday when, in full pads, he participated in full-team 11-on-11 periods of practice.
That was a first during training camp for Leonard, who previously participated in non-padded 11-on-11 work and in full-padded individual and seven-on-seven drills.
"It was amazing," Leonard said. "Especially being away from contact for a long time, easing it back in and now just going out and taking the fear out of making contact. It felt amazing to get out there and make some contact."
The fear Leonard referenced was of the unknown – how would his body respond to making contact for the first time in a long time. The last time Leonard made contact with offensive and defensive linemen on the field was in the Colts' Week 9 loss to the New England Patriots in 2022, a game that happened nine months ago.
Leonard said after Saturday's practice he doesn't have any limitations, though he emphasized he's not rushing back into anything after appearing in only three games last season.
Still, through this methodical, intentional buildup in activity, Leonard is encouraged not only with how he feels on the field, but what he sees on tape after.
"I'm starting to see somebody that resembles the guy I used to know," Leonard said. "So now, building more confidence, shooting through gaps, being in windows, stuff like that. That's who I want to see on film and that's what I'm happy to see right now."
News, notes and observations from Saturday's practice, which was moved indoors at Grand Park due to inclement weather:
- Gardner Minshew took all the first-team reps behind center, while Anthony Richardson rotated to the second-team offense. There was no surprise here: This is what the Colts have done since training camp opened a week and a half ago, and is what head coach Shane Steichen said the plan will continue to be for now.
- Minshew evaded the pass rush, stepped up and to the right in the pocket and fired a strike to wide receiver Alec Pierce early in 11-on-11. He also connected on a quick catch and run with wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. later in 11-on-11, and hit wide receiver Josh Downs for some explosive YAC in seven-on-seven.
- Richardson had deep completions to wide receivers Cody Case, Breshad Perriman and Juwann Winfree in the first 11-on-11 period, then later in a full-team red zone drill connected with tight end Drew Ogletree for a touchdown.
- Safety Nick Cross positively impacted a few plays in full-team work.
- Cornerback JuJu Brents practiced for the first time in a Colts uniform. The 2023 second-round pick was held out of OTAs and minicamp this spring with a wrist injury, then missed the first week and a half of training camp with a hamstring issue.
- Running back Kenyan Drake, who signed with the Colts Saturday morning, participated in practice.
- Among the players who did not participate in Saturday's practice: Tight end Mo Alie-Cox (ankle), safety Julian Blackmon (hamstring), defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (foot), defensive end Samson Ebukam (hamstring), tight end Will Mallory (hamstring), cornerback Kenny Moore II (ankle) and tight end Jelani Woods (hamstring).