INDIANAPOLIS – The tape doesn’t lie, and the tape is one of the indicators that Shaquille Leonard’s return to the lineup won’t happen Sunday.
But Leonard also apparently is in agreement with that decision.
The Indianapolis Colts ruled their All-Pro linebacker out of Sunday’s meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs even though Leonard went through a third week of practice, including seven of nine as a full participant.
So, what’s left?
“What’s left is he’s gotta know he can go out there and play winning football. That’s the bottom line,” Frank Reich said Friday. “He’s gotta know he can go out there and play winning football and feel confident in that.”
The week-to-week discussions – Is this the week? – are a collaborative effort.
“It’s a conversation coming from everybody,” Reich said, “but deep down it’s the player. Deep down the player has to know he can play winning football and help this team win. That’s where we’ve got to get to.”
Practicing and rehabbing following back surgery in June only to be told Not this week is “killing him,” Reich said.
“This injury, it’s a bear,” the head coach continued. “He is fighting and scratching every second, every way he can to get back out on the field, I promise you that. He’s doing everything – plus – he can do.”
Reich insisted comparing video of Leonard prior to the back with video of his practices is the only evidence required to reinforce Leonard isn’t ready.
“We watch tape and we can see,” Reich said. “When you look at tape from his last year or the year before versus tape now and watch him move . . . it’s not the same.
“We need it to look the same. So from our standpoint, it’s, ‘Hey, we need that tape to look close to like when you were relatively healthy.’ That’s one side of it. And the side from Shaq is he needs to feel it.”
Thursday, Leonard insisted this week was better than the prior week.
“Getting more explosive on my steps,” he said. “Feeling better than I was last week. So continuing to stack the days up and just waiting for that moment to come . . . When that time comes, I’ll be ready.”
Leonard was placed on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) at the start of training camp, but added to the active roster Aug. 30 when rosters were trimmed to 53.
The team considered leaving Leonard on PUP to open the season or subsequently moving him to the injured reserve list, both of which would have required Leonard missing at least four games. In either case, he would have been prohibited from practicing.
“You know that when you don’t take those other steps everybody’s going to expect it’s going to be week 1, week 2,” Reich said. “It was taking a little bit of a gamble that ‘Hey, maybe the last step would go faster than according to plan.’
“But everything is going according to plan. This is a tough injury. He’s handling it the right way. He has the right attitude.”
Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce are in line to return against the Chiefs.
Pittman missed the loss at Jacksonville with a quadriceps injury while Pierce suffered a concussion in the opener at Houston.
Pierce sustained a big hit by Texans’ safety Jalen Pitre during the game, but was able to finish. He began experiencing symptoms the next day, and reported them to the team.
“I had a bad headache Monday and felt off Monday and Tuesday,” said Pierce, who never had suffered a concussion.
He was close to completing the NFL’s concussion protocol prior the Jacksonville game.
Now, the 2nd-round draft pick is ready to go.
“I’m ready. I’m excited,” he said. “I want to go out there and show what I can do.”
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.