Colts LB Shaquille Leonard vows to not rush his recovery after successful second surgery

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INDIANAPOLIS — Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard is confident he’s on the road to recovery after undergoing a second surgery to repair the nerve issue that has plagued him for several seasons and limited the All-Pro to just 74 snaps this season.

Leonard went through a second surgery with specialist Dr. Robert Watkins in November to repair the nerves, which were originally damaged by the compression of two discs in his back, leading to a lack of functionality in his calf and left leg.

The All-Pro linebacker is now committed to making sure he finishes his full recovery, rather than trying to rush back.

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“Not only are the nerves re-firing, they’re just strengthening everything back up now,” Leonard said. “I’m just taking it slow. I shouldn’t have been out there, shouldn’t have been playing, should have just rested.”

Leonard credits Indianapolis interim coach Jeff Saturday for spurring him to get the second surgery.

Frustrated for years by the lack of results he was getting in his recovery and a lack of clarity on the path he should take, Leonard said Saturday’s personal experience helped the linebacker understand what was required.

“When Jeff came in, he told me he had a similar surgery with his hand,” Leonard said. “Being able to talk to him, and then that Wednesday practice, against the Raiders, I felt something weird, and right then he said, ‘Bro, I’m shutting you down. I want you to go check your back out.' And once we saw the MRI, we knew it was time to go get another surgery.”

Leonard’s first surgery in June, had not been immediately successful, even though the linebacker started rehabilitating the injury with an eye on getting back onto the field as fast as possible.

“The first surgery in June, I didn’t have any sensation down my leg the whole time I was trying to play. Couldn’t do a calf raise, got no power in my left side,” Leonard said.

He’d turned in a spectacular season in 2021 despite the injury, and Leonard knew he could make up for his physical setbacks with his instincts and his knowledge of the game.

With the Colts struggling, Leonard wanted to be on the field, even though he was still struggling.

“I was making it worse,” Leonard said. “When you’re dealing with nerves, from what I’ve learned, you need to take the proper time, and me being a warrior, me wanting to compete, me wanting to play, me wanting to be my brothers' side, I wanted to be on the field. I wanted to go out there and compete, but I didn’t know I was making it worse by continuing to do the things that I was doing.”

The feeling the second time Leonard had surgery was completely different.

“And then post-surgery for the second time, I started feeling the tingles in my calf, the tingles down my hamstring and my glute,” Leonard said.

Leonard vows that he’s learned his lesson.

He will not rush this recovery, not the way he did before.

“I don’t have to be ready for football until June or July, so of course I’m going to take it slow,” Leonard said. “I don’t want to have another setback.”

This season has been hard for Leonard.

He wanted to be on the field. Wanted to be on the field so badly that he says he couldn’t watch football at home at the end of the season.

“It’s been terrible. Being on both sides of it. Playing, being loved,” Leonard said. “And then you’re not playing, you get a lot of hate, people that used to talk to you don’t talk to you, stuff like that. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions not being able to go out there and help on the football field, not able to compete with the guys. It sucks.”

Leonard believes he’ll be back on the field next season.

This time at full strength.

And he’s not going to let himself get in the way of that goal.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts LB Shaquille Leonard vows he won't rush recovery again