WESTFIELD, Ind. – Shaquille Leonard rolled up to Grand Park Tuesday in one of his trademark classic cars, and on Wednesday, his trademark energy is set to be a part of the Colts' first training camp practice of 2023.
Leonard, the three-time first-team AP All-Pro linebacker and one of the NFL's most prolific takeaway generators, passed his physical on Tuesday and will begin training camp as a limited participant in practice, general manager Chris Ballard said.
While Leonard has not been cleared for full contact, he will take part in individual drills in practice. Leonard was not one of three Colts players placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list on Tuesday.
"We've got a progression in play here," Ballard said. "He'll start out in practice and go through individuals, start building his endurance back up. But slowly but surely, we will get there. He has worked extremely hard. There's really no timeline on exactly when he'll be completely cleared for contact, but it's good to get his presence back on the team, back out in drill work is important for us."
Players placed on PUP – in this case, defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis, tight end Will Mallory and running back Jonathan Taylor – cannot participate in practice, but can be removed at any time before the Aug. 29 roster cut-down to 53. Leonard began 2022 training camp on PUP before he was removed in late August.
Leonard has been working for months to get back on the field after a lingering nerve issue led him to undergo two procedures in 2022 and appear in just three games. The Colts have been pleased with everything Leonard's done to get to this point, and are confident in the direction he's headed.
"It's been really good," Ballard said. "He's diligently worked to get back. We'll just see. Time will tell on it overall. But right now, very encouraged."
Quick injury hits:
- Tight end Drew Ogletree will be a little limited to begin camp, Ballard said, as he hits the field for the first time since tearing his ACL during a joint practice with the Detroit Lions last August. The Colts remain high on Ogletree's potential [quote].
- Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. will be limited early in camp, too, as he works his way back from a hip issue that held him out of OTAs and minicamp this spring. "He'll be a little limited early just because we'll be careful with him this first week or two," Ballard said, "but he has been diligent in his work ethic getting back from this injury."
- Cornerback JuJu Brents (wrist) will be limited early, but "shouldn't be too long," Ballard said.
A look at the young corners
In 2022, Stephon Gilmore – the 2019 AP Defensive Player of the Year – kept telling Ballard about one of his young teammates.
"Man," Gilmore told Ballard, "Dallis Flowers is really talented."
The flashes the Colts saw from Flowers last year when he got in at cornerback – all 174 of his snaps on defense came in the final four weeks of the season – only confirmed Gilmore's take.
"Now, he's got to play and he's got to prove it but the times, the snapshot we've given him has been pretty good," Ballard said. "Of course, he's going to have some mistakes and look, we're going to have some up-and-down play back there. Saying that, it's a young, talented group. I mean, between JuJu, (Darius) Rush who we drafted, (Jaylon) Jones, (Darrell) Baker Jr. who was on the team, Kenny, Dallis – we think we've got a good core group of talented corners that just have to play and get better."
The Colts will get a longer look at Brents during training camp after he missed OTAs and minicamp with a wrist injury, but both Rush and Jones impressed after landing in Indianapolis this spring.
"Rush had a really good offseason and is really talented," Ballard said. "I thought Jones, our seventh-round pick out of Texas A&M, I thought he had a really good offseason."
Also notable: The Colts did not know Isaiah Rodgers Sr. would be indefinitely suspended for violating the NFL's gambling policy when they drafted Brents, Rush and Jones in April – and the team's move to release Rodgers this summer didn't necessarily alter the plan at cornerback.
"We drafted three corners," Ballard said. "There was a reason we drafted three of them."
Quote of the day
"My first camp here, my heart was racing. I was scared. I didn't know where I was going. Everything happened so fast, and it was intimidating because everybody's yelling at you — this way, no this way, that way to run this play, you have to get up and sing in front of the team every single offensive meeting. I was spinning and now this just feels like my regular life." - Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. in an interview on the Official Colts Podcast (listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Youtube or wherever you get your podcasts)