INDIANAPOLIS – The good news: Darius Leonard won’t need another procedure on his left ankle.
The bad news: the Indianapolis Colts’ All-Pro linebacker underwent a procedure Tuesday to address a persistent back issue. The decision to undergo the procedure – it took place on the West Coast – was made after Leonard consulted with various specialists.
“He’ll miss some training camp time, but if all goes according to plan he should be ready to go for the regular season,’’ Frank Reich said following the first of three veteran minicamp sessions.
Leonard took to Twitter Tuesday to provide an update.
“Surgery went well, feeling amazing and ready to get back going!” he said. “If you know me you know I always come back way better than I was! Let’s go man ankle feels amazing and can’t wait to get back moving!”
Tuesday was the first time Leonard’s back issue had been made public. He had been in attendance throughout the Colts’ offseason workout program but hadn’t participated in any of the on-field drills.
Until now, the ankle was the apparent problem.
Leonard met with the media in early May and was vague when asked about his left ankle. It required surgery last June and hampered him throughout much of last season.
“It’s attached. It’s there,’’ he said. “I mean, we’re working on it. It feels a whole lot better than what it did coming from the end of the season.’’
Leonard added he didn’t anticipate needing another procedure on the ankle.
However, Leonard began experiencing back problems several months ago.
“The best of my understanding is that in the offseason early on it just kind of ‘Hey, something’s not feeling right,’’’ Reichi said. “You know, ‘Let’s keep an eye on it. Don’t overreact.’
“And it got worse rather than better.’’
The back issue suddenly changes the dynamics.
The Colts crystalized Leonard’s place as a franchise pillar when general manager Chris Ballard signed him to a five-year, $98.25 million extension, making him the NFL’s highest-paid non-pass rushing linebacker.
He responded by being named first-team All-Pro for the third time in four seasons. Leonard’s steady impact included four interceptions, four tackles for a loss, eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
While Leonard mends, E.J. Speed will fill his void in the starting lineup.
“It’s definitely an opportunity,’’ said the 2019 5th-round pick who has excelled on special teams. “We’ve been in this situation before. Darius came back (last season) and had an All-Pro season after having to rehab an injury.
“At this point, when my number is called, as always I’m going to step up and be that guy for the team.’’
The Colts are optimistic Leonard’s rehab will conclude in late August or early September and allow him to be available for the Sept. 11 opener at Houston.
“Very optimistic about the procedure and the prognosis,’’ Reich said.
The decision for Leonard to have the procedure now was “let’s just ahead of it. Don’t let it progress further,’’ he said.
Reich wasn’t able to offer any specifics on the nature of the injury.
“Honestly, I’m not a back expert,’’ he said. “At some point we’ll likely come out with a more clear statement (after the team sees) how the procedure goes today.’’
Moore on hand
Veteran cornerback Kenny Moore II participated in Tuesday’s work after steering clear of on-field work the past few weeks to show his displeasure with his contract.
Moore has two years remaining on the four-year, $33 million extension he signed in June 2019. At the time, that made him the NFL’s highest-paid nickel cornerback. But now his $8.325 million annual average ranks 27th among all cornerbacks.
“Obviously love Kenny,’’ Reich said. “He provides an energy for us and a presence. We know what kind of player he is.’’
Moore has become a defensive cornerstone and earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season.
Reich wasn’t certain whether anything has been resolved regarding Moore’s contract concerns.
“Chris is handling that side of it,’’ he said. “I stay in communication with Kenny just on a personal level.
“Just optimistic things will work out the right way.’’
This and that
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was on hand for the mandatory work after missing the last two weeks of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs). He prefers to work out on his own.
Also, veteran safety Khari Willis was excused from minicamp because of personal issues.
“I have been in constant communication with Khari,’’ Reich said.
Running back Jonathan Taylor was held out of practice “just for precaution,’’ according to Reich.
Among players who did not practice: defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis and Curtis Brooks, offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, safety Rodney McLeod, cornerbacks Tony Brown and Marvell Tell III and wide receiver Mike Strachan.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.