INDIANAPOLIS – Shaquille Leonard will miss a third game in a row to open the season with his continued jersey number.
The All-Pro linebacker is one of two players to rule out the Colts; the other is rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann.
The Colts have rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce back from concussion protocol and top wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. back from a quad injury, both in time to host the Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. Pro Bowl defense end Yannick Ngakoue is questionable with a back problem.
Leonard exercised fully on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but he is still not responding well enough to the surgery he had to have in June to correct a nerve problem in his back. He had surgery to try to eliminate the pain that shot from the back to the calf.
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“What’s left is that he needs to know that he can go out and play winning football. That’s the bottom line,” said Colts coach Frank Reich. “He needs to know that he can go out and play winning football and feel confident. And most of that comes from him.
“It’s a conversation with everyone, but deep down it’s the player. Deep down the player needs to know that he can go out and play and compete and play winning football. … This injury is a bear. He fight and scratch every second, in every possible way to get onto the field.”
Leonard had surgery in June, which forced him out of the rest of the offseason program and training camp. When the regular season arrived, Leonard started practicing and has since practiced with seven full sessions. The practice time has the advantage of not requiring him to be on the injured reserve, which would have eliminated him for at least four games, but also opened up a spot on the roster.
Reich said the decision to play Leonard is a joint decision, but the Colts are relying largely on how Leonard feels after the full training sessions he’s endured, seven of which he’s had in the three weeks since the start of the season. regular season.
“If you look at the band from last year or the year before versus the band now, and you see it moving, it’s not the same,” Reich said. “We need it to look the same.”
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The Colts face a difficult task without Leonard this week as they prepare for the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes completes 73% of his passes with 595 yards, seven touchdowns, zero interceptions and a league best score of 127.9. His favorite target, seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce, will challenge the Colts’ linebacker depth in coverage. Zaire Franklin and Bobby Okereke are expected to play the majority in the position.
Bringing Pittman and Pierce back on the attack should help the Colts reciprocate that firepower. The offense is looking to take a big step forward after a 24-0 loss to the Jaguars. It was back to Pittman, who caught nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in the opener before missing last week.
“I feel good,” Pittman said. “It was hard to watch last week, so I can’t wait to play.”
For the Chiefs, kicker Harrison Butker will miss the game with an ankle injury.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts update status on Shaquille Leonard, Pierce, Pittman Jr., Raimann