INDIANAPOLIS – Colts linebacker Darius Leonard had back surgery on Tuesday to repair an injury that has plagued him throughout the offseason, according to Indianapolis coach Frank Reich.
Leonard’s recovery will force the All-Pro linebacker to miss at least part of the team’s training camp, although Indianapolis is not expecting Leonard to miss any regular season games at this point.
For most of the offseason, the focus has been on Leonard’s troublesome left ankle, which has kept him from doing any on-field work during the team’s offseason workouts, but the back has been a lingering problem that began shortly after the end of the regular. season.
“Surgery went well, feeling amazing and ready to get back going!” Leonard wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon. “If you know me, you know I always come back way better than I was! Let’s go man, ankle feels amazing and can’t wait to get back moving!”
Reich declined to offer details on the specifics of Leonard’s back injury.
“He’s had a back issue that’s been a progressive thing that started early in the offseason and was fine, but it’s been something that’s progressed,” Reich said. “We just made the evaluation, consulting with Darius, doctors, trainers, he’s going to have a procedure done on his back.”
Leonard, at this point, is the only Colt facing a major injury situation as the team goes through three days of mandatory minicamp this week.
Strong safety Khari Willis has an excused absence due to a personal matter, and running back Jonathan Taylor was held out of practice on Tuesday for precautionary reasons, but Taylor was on the field watching on Tuesday, smiling and talking to teammates.
The way Leonard’s back injury has progressed is eerily similar to the ankle injury that plagued him throughout the 2021 season.
Leonard had surgery on his left ankle last June in an effort to get ahead of the injury before the start of the season, but he missed two weeks of training camp, played through the injury the entire season and has been held out of on-field work this summer because of lingering issues in the joint.
The Colts remain adamant that Leonard does not need another surgery on the ankle.
“We continue to monitor his ankle,” Reich said. “He is not going to need a second procedure.”
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The back injury wasn’t thought to be serious at first.
But it lingered, and it was hard for the Colts to gauge the severity of the injury, given that Leonard hasn’t been playing.
“It got worse, rather than better, but because he’s not practicing, we don’t even know that,” Reich said.
Leonard, a three-time first-team All-Pro, has long been one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and he’s expected to play a critical role in a Gus Bradley defense that helped turn Seattle’s Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright into stars.
Even though the ankle clearly limited Leonard last season, he still played 91.8% of the snaps — missing just one game, due to a positive COVID-19 test-made 122 tackles, led the NFL with eight forced fumbles, picked off four passes and recovered three more fumbles. Four years into his career, Leonard has become the NFL’s best turnover machine, producing 11 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries, in addition to 15 sacks.
The superstar linebacker is also in the second season of the monster $ 99 million extension he signed last August, including $ 33 million guaranteed, a deal that made Leonard the league’s highest-paid linebacker.
Leonard, who will turn 27 in July, has a deal that can keep him in a Colts uniform through the 2026 season, when he’ll be 31.
Indianapolis downplayed the long-term implications of Leonard’s back surgery in announcing the news on Tuesday.
“We’re optimistic about the procedure and the prognosis,” Reich said.
Leonard now must spend his summer rehabilitating both the back injury and an ankle that Reich admitted last week has hit a plateau, leaving the Colts to wonder how to get their star linebacker over the hump.
Adding the back injury on top of that will give the ankle time to rest, but adds another injury concern for the Colts’ defensive leader.
“He’ll miss some training camp time,” Reich said. “But if all goes according to plan, he should be ready to go for the regular season.”
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Darius Leonard will miss Indianapolis Colts training camp time