The Indianapolis Colts shocked fans and the media with the release of inside linebacker Shaquille Leonard on Tuesday. Many fans on social media appeared heartbroken over Leonard's release.
Some Colts players, both former and current, were equally emotional about Leonard's departure from Indianapolis and took to X to share their feelings.
"53. Since Day 1 came in and made ya mark," fellow linebacker Zaire Franklin wrote on X (formerly Twitter). Your legacy is written in stone brudda. Always love gang."
53. Since Day1 came in and made ya mark. Your legacy is written in stone brudda. Always love gang 🖤 pic.twitter.com/czMST6z3oh— Zaire Franklin (@ZiggySmalls_) November 21, 2023
Leonard and Franklin came into the league together during the 2018 NFL draft. The Colts selected Leonard in the second round of that draft class while Franklin was a seventh-round choice.
Franklin was a reserve linebacker for the Colts while Leonard made three first-team All-Pros in their first four seasons. But in 2022, Leonard underwent offseason surgery in 2022 and started the season on injured reserve.
Since then, Franklin has started every game but one for Indianapolis. Franklin has essentially replaced Leonard although the two linebackers had been starting together the season.
In nine games, Franklin has posted 117 combined tackles, including a league-high 76 solos this season. He also has 2 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks, 3 pass defenses and 2 forced fumbles.
Leonard had 65 combined tackles and 2 tackles for loss in nine games for the Colts this year.
Colts defensive back Kenny Moore II told Leonard on social media that he would miss him.
"Gonna miss you bro," Moore wrote on X. "One of a kind, what a time. Thank you wholeheartedly for everything. Love."
gonna miss you bro. one of a kind, what a time. thank you wholeheartedly for everything. Love.— Kenny Moore II (@KennyKennyMoe3) November 21, 2023
Like Franklin, Moore played with Leonard since 2018.
Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox was more cyptic, but he appeared to react to Leonard's release as well.
😪— Mo Alie-Cox (@MoAlie81) November 21, 2023
Former Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton also reacted on social media to Leonard's release on Tuesday.
FIVEEEEEEEEEE TREEEEEEEEEEE 🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢— TY Hilton (@TYHilton13) November 21, 2023
Hilton played with Leonard for four seasons from 2018-21.
Even Colts owner Jim Irsay appeared sadden over the news of Leonard's release.
"Tough business," Irsay wrote on X.
Tough business.. 💙 pic.twitter.com/fb2XcdmegD— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) November 21, 2023
Leonard registered 614 combined tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits and 15 sacks in 70 games with Indianapolis. He also had 17 forced fumbles and 12 interceptions.
From 2018-21, he made the All-Pro team every year, including three first-team All-Pros in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
The Athletic's James Boyd reported that Leonard has not considered retirement and has not ruled out the possibility of playing for another team during the 2023 season.
#Colts LB Shaq Leonard says he has not considered retirement. He wants to continue playing and did not rule out the possibility of playing for another team this season.— James Boyd (@RomeovilleKid) November 21, 2023