INDIANAPOLIS – At last, Shaquille Leonard’s number will be called.
The Indianapolis Colts’ All-Pro linebacker will be on a pitch count, but ready, willing and eager to return in Sunday’s meeting with the Washington Commanders at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I’m just happy to get back out there, just play whenever my number gets called,’’ Leonard said Friday. “I think I’m ready. I’m confident in my ability to go out there and play winning football and do whatever I’ve got to do to help this team win.
“I feel fine.’’
Leonard has been limited to 16 total snaps this season, all in the Colts’ Week 4 loss to Tennessee. He missed the first three games after undergoing back surgery in June, started against the Titans, but was forced from the game in the second quarter – and after 16 snaps – when he suffered a concussion and broken nose on a collision with teammate Zaire Franklin.
His objective is to add another level to a defense that ranks 8th in total yards allowed and 13th in points, but has just seven takeaways.
Leonard earned a third first-team All-Pro spot last season on the strength of four interceptions, a league-best eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
“That’s who I am,’’ Leonard said. “Hopefully bring that turnover mentality, that leadership, that energy.
“Just being me; not trying to do too much. Just be the best version of myself I can be.’’
Coach Frank Reich stressed Leonard’s pitch count will have some flexibility.
“It’s not ‘x’ number of plays and you’re out,’’’ he said. “Our goal is to get him out there because we feel he is the best defensive player in the league.
“Our goal is to get him out there for 100% of the snaps as soon as we can, but we’re just not quite there, yet.’’
Along with giving Leonard a green light to return, Reich ruled out quarterback Matt Ryan (shoulder), defensive end Kwity Paye (ankle) and linebacker Grant Stuard (pectoral).