INDIANAPOLIS – The countdown for Shaquille Leonard’s return to the Indianapolis Colts has begun.
The team moved its All-Pro linebacker from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) to the 53-player roster Tuesday as part of its roster cutdown. Leonard opened training camp on PUP after undergoing back surgery in June.
Adding Leonard to the active roster was the best-case scenario in terms of how soon he would be available for the regular season. If he had remained on PUP, he would have been required to miss at least the first four games and could not have practiced during that stretch.
However, it still would seem to be a long shot for him to be ready for the Sept. 11 opener at Houston. Leonard last practiced Jan. 7, two days before the season-ending loss at Jacksonville.
Leonard went through a workout at Lucas Oil Stadium prior to the Colts’ preseason finale against Tampa Bay.
“Very encouraging,’’ Frank Reich said Saturday. “Shaq . . . from the start of OTAs, from the start of training camp has been the consummate pro. His maturity as a leader, his maturity as a professional has been on full display. I don’t think he could’ve done one ounce more or one thing any better to prepare himself to have the quickest comeback that he can have.’’
Reich was more expansive regarding Leonard’s possible return during training camp. He stressed everyone would have to show patience.
“I think when he gets cleared, he’s not going to be 100%, and I think he is going to have to work his way back into it,’’ he said.
Reich recalled Peyton Manning’s return to the lineup in 2008 after missing training camp following surgery in mid-July to address an infected bursa sack in his left knee. Manning started the season, struggled early, then finished strong and won the third of his four MVP honors with the Colts.
“So my guess is whenever it is (Leonard) gets cleared, it’s going to be the same way,’’ Reich said. “He is going to have to figure out how to play feeling the way he feels. Not feeling 100%, feeling like maybe this isn’t quite all the way back, but I’ve still got to figure out how to play winning football.’’
Leonard never offered a timeframe on his return.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day,’’ he said at the start of camp. “Hope for the best and just get ready to rock and roll when the time comes.’’
After opening against the Texans, the Colts are at Jacksonville Sept. 18 followed by home meetings with the Kansas City Chiefs Sept. 25 and Tennessee Titans Oct. 2.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.