INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis waived three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard on Tuesday in a surprising move after the Colts played themselves back into the playoff race.
The decision to part ways with Leonard, the 2018 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, comes shortly after he complained publicly about his decreased playing time this season.
Indy (5-5) was trying to bring back the playmaking linebacker slowly after undergoing two back surgeries to repair a nerve injury.
“Indy, I want to thank you for accepting me and my family with open arms,” Leonard wrote in part in a social media post. “These past six years has been nothing but incredible! Through the good times and the bad y’all stood by my side. I apologize for not bringing that (Lombardi) trophy back to the 317.”
The Colts did not have player availability Tuesday, their typical day off. Indy had a bye last week after beating the New England Patriots in Germany to get back to .500.
Leonard was best known for two traits on the field — his ability to chase down opponents and his penchant for creating turnovers.
The injury limited those skills substantially in 2021 and 2022, when he missed all but three games because of several injuries.
“Shaq is the ultimate competitor and has been a fan favorite since he arrived as a rookie in 2018,” general manger Chris Ballard said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful for his contributions to the team and the city of Indianapolis over the last six seasons. We wish him the best and he will always be a valued member of the Horseshoe.”
Leonard played in 70 games, making 68 starts and had 614 tackles in 6 1/2 seasons. He had 32 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, 31 passes defensed, 12 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.
Last year, he was Indy’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and the team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner.
He had 65 tackles in nine games this season but had no sacks, no interceptions, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries.
“Colts Nation will always remember ‘The Maniac’s’ palpable energy on the field with each tackle, interception, punchout, and fumble recovery,” team owner Jim Irsay said in a statement.
“Off the field, he’s a servant leader and assisted numerous families in both his hometown and the Indianapolis community. We’re thankful for Shaq and the contributions he made to our organization. We wish him and his beautiful family the best moving forward.”
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.