Colts’ Leonard will miss start of camp after back surgery

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard will miss this week’s three-day minicamp and the start of training camp after having back surgery.

Coach Frank Reich said Leonard was scheduled to have surgery Tuesday when Indy opened its final week of offseason workouts. It’s unclear when the three-time All-Pro will return to action though Reich remains hopeful Leonard will play in the Sept. 11 season opener at Houston.

“To the best of my understanding it was early in the offseason, he was like ‘Hey, something’s not feeling right’ and we were like ‘Hey, let’s keep an eye on it, don’t overreact,'” Reich said. “It just kind of got worse rather than better.”

Leonard had offseason ankle surgery in 2021 and played all of last season in pain. He had another ankle surgery earlier this year, which prevented him from participating in any of this spring’s workouts. Reich said the two sides ruled out a third ankle surgery.

Now one of the league’s most productive linebackers must contend with a bad back.

The South Carolina State alum has missed seven games in his first four NFL seasons and still has amassed 538 tackles, including a league-high 163 in 2018 when he was the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

He’s not just a tackling machine, though.

Leonard also has 17 forced fumbles, 15 sacks, 11 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in his career. Indy rewarded Leonard with a five-year, $98.5 million contract extension last summer, which made him the highest-paid linebacker at the time.

“Really I don’t know the exact timetable yet,” Reich said. “In my mind, just as long as he’s ready to play the regular season. Does he need to play preseason? Sure, it would be nice if he played but if it doesn’t happen, I’m not worried about it.”

Reich said Jonathan Taylor, last season’s NFL rushing champion, also sat out Tuesday for precautionary reasons.

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