All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard out as Colts prepare for Falcons

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 24: Darius Leonard #53 of the Indianapolis Colts is seen before a preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A major component on the defense will be missing Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts open their home schedule against the Atlanta Falcons at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Darius Leonard has been ruled out with a concussion. The team’s leading tackler and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year experienced concussion symptoms following Sunday’s win at Tennessee and did not practice this week.

With Leonard out, rookie Bobby Okereke is expected to make his first career start. Frank Reich declined to elaborate on the likely linebacker alignment against the Falcons, but Okereke admitted during the week he had been working at MIKE (inside ‘backer) with Anthony Walker filling Leonard’s void at WILL.

Okereke, a third-round pick in the April draft, has appeared in 26 total snaps in the first two games. He’s been credited with one tackle for loss and one pass defended.

Reich said Okereke has played well in the first two games, and looks like “he needs more play time. He’ll obviously get more time this week.”

The only other player ruled out is Jabaal Sheard. The veteran defensive end had a procedure on his right knee during training camp and his rehab has ramped up recently to include working with the training staff during practice.

Running back Marlon Mack (calf) and cornerback Pierre Desir (knee) practiced Friday and are expected to be in the starting lineup.

“I knew it was minor. I knew it wasn’t serious,” Desir said of the injury that occurred in the second half of the Titans game. “I feel great.”

Keeper for Campbell

First, there was unbridled enthusiasm. Then, an Ooops! moment.

Welcome to the NFL, Parris Campbell.

The Colts’ second-round draft pick crossed off one of his Bucket List items last Sunday in the win over the Tennessee Titans with a 12-yard touchdown reception from Jacoby Brissett. It was his first NFL TD.

“That’s the one I was thinking about growing up, scoring that first NFL touchdown,” he said.

Trouble is, Campbell literally fumbled Phase 2 of the catch. His intent was to keep the football.

“It’s a special keepsake,” he said.

Instead of cradling the football and returning to the bench, Campbell dropped the ball, turned and delivered a “Give it me!” gesture to the stands. He then exchanged a leaping chest bump with Mack.

“In my mind, I didn’t even know where I was,” Campbell said. “I was just so excited I got my first NFL touchdown. It still was surreal.

“I was walking back to the sideline and everybody was asking, ‘Did you keep the ball? Did you keep the ball?’ I had to go back and make sure somebody got it for me.”

A member of the team’s equipment staff covered the gaffe.

Campbell hasn’t made a habit of keeping benchmark footballs, but this one was special.

“That’s the only one,” he said. “Gotta keep that one.”

That puts Campbell 127 shy of matching Marvin Harrison’s team record. Harrison’s 128 receiving TDs rank 5th in NFL history.

Part of Harrison’s routine was to keep every TD football. Eventually, he said he was going to turn the football covers into a sofa.

That’s not in Campbell’s plans. The football from the Titans game was nestled in his cubicle this week. At some point, it’ll find a central resting place in his home.

As for Harrison’s 128 TDs?

“That’s crazy,” Campbell said. “I can’t even fathom that.”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast:

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