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Shaquille Leonard views playing time against the Bills as 'the biggest step' in his injury recovery

For the first time since last November, Leonard got to play in a game, as he took a handful of snaps during the Colts' preseason opener.

Leonard BUF

When it was announced that Shaquille Leonard would in fact play in the Colts' preseason opener against the Bills, it was clear that Leonard had made another step in his recovery process.

Saturday's contest served as the first game he's played since November 6, when the team took on the New England Patriots in Week 9 of the 2022 season.

"Shoot it was great. To see him out there, a guy that's worked so hard and been a tireless worker to get back on that football field – so happy for him, thankful that he's out there with his teammates," Steichen said. "I know he is fired up. I know he doesn't take it for granted. It's good to have him back out there. One of the leaders on this team, been a leader here for a long time. I'm excited to have him back."

Though Leonard admitted before the game that he was nervous about making contact and getting used to the speed of the game again to Colts Media's Larra Overton, his nerves did not stop him from recognizing the significance of the moment.

As Leonard ran out of the tunnel at Highmark Stadium, he exclaimed "Long time coming," per Overton.

"[I got] no sleep last night," Leonard said. "I've been anxious all day - a little nervous. Finally running out of the tunnel and feeling the hate from the other fans got me juiced up. Once, the ball snapped, I just felt like riding the bicycle once again - just have fun and just went out there playing with the guys."

Ultimately, Leonard ended up playing six snaps with the first-team defense.

"Today was hard," Leonard said. "A lot of plays went away [from me], so I didn't really get too much contact. So now it's just - I didn't think the speed changed, so I definitely had confidence getting back in there. But, I still haven't made any contact so I'm still looking forward to it."

Though this was not as busy of a game as Leonard has become used to, he still views this game as a sign that he's on the right track.

"This was the biggest step," Leonard said. "Just getting back in a game environment and getting my feet, my confidence and everything back under me. I think this was the biggest step I could have taken in this process."

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