INDIANAPOLIS – Shaquille Leonard is known from bringing the juice – the energy – for the defense.
But in this instance, he lacked the necessary clout.
When it came time for everyone to huddle and determine Leonard’s availability for Sunday’s critical showdown with the Tennessee Titans in Nashville – Frank Reich, the medical and training staffs, Leonard himself – the Indianapolis Colts’ All-Pro linebacker lacked the necessary thumb’s-up votes.
“Of course, I was outvoted,’’ Leonard said after being ruled out of a second straight game after sustaining a concussion and broken nose in the Colts’ week 4 meeting with the Titans.
Had the decision been solely Leonard’s, he’d be back as the defensive catalyst.
“Of course. No question,’’ he said. “I feel good. I feel confident in my movements, but I guess I’ve got to go out there and prove it each and every week and hopefully I can get that green light to go.’’
Maybe next week against the Washington Commanders. Not Sunday against the Titans.
Reich made it clear the team is erring on the side of caution with its defensive cornerstone.
Leonard completed the NFL’s concussion protocol Friday and has been medically cleared to play.
“There just were other factors,’’ Reich insisted. “Just kind of felt like he sustained a pretty serious injury, on top of that a concussion, on top of that a pretty significant procedure (on the nose) and for the last two weeks he’s been completely inactive.
“We just think it’s the right thing . . . we just feel like it’s the right thing for him – the right thing for our team – to give him a week or two or whatever it takes for him to get back after having this injury and procedure.
“A little bit of it is protecting the player from the player. We know what Darius wants. If it’s up to him, he would have played. He’d play every day of the week. Just trying to do the best thing for everybody involved.’’
Leonard’s fifth season has been beset with setbacks.
He underwent surgery in June to address two disks in his back, and finally made his season debut week 4 against the Titans. That lasted barely two quarters before he suffered a concussion and broken nose while colliding with teammate Zaire Franklin.
The impact caved in Leonard’s facemask.
“Broke my nose in two places,’’ he said. “It’s football. We know it’s a very contact sport. It’s hard to play this game.’’
When he returns, he’ll do so with a shield attached to his facemask.
Leonard’s 2022 bottom line: two tackles on 16 total defensive snaps.
“It sucks to be on the sideline, not be able to go out there and help this team win,’’ he said. “You want to be out here and be with the guys. You want to play football. You want to do what you enjoy and you can’t do that.
“It sucks, man.’’
Along with Leonard, the Colts ruled out defensive end Kwity Paye (ankle), linebacker JoJo Domann (abdomen) and wideout Keke Coutee (concussion).
Running backs Jonathan Taylor (ankle) and Nyheim Hines (concussion) are expected to return.
Reich said “it’s looking positive’’ for Taylor to return after missing the last two games.
“I would anticipate he’s playing,’’ he said. “I thought he looked good today.’’
Hines was cleared from concussion protocol Friday.
“It’s great to be back,’’ he said. “I’ve been practicing since last week. I was feeling back to normal last week.’’
Hines suffered a concussion on the third play of the week 5 overtime win at Denver, and missed last week’s win over Jacksonville. It was the first game he’s missed in five seasons.
“It sucked,’’ he said. “It was the first game I missed. It means a lot to me. I want to be as durable as I can. I feel like I’ve proven to be durable and I try to be as available as I can.
“I had to take one to the chin last week. It was hard, but it was to the betterment of the team.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.