INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis released three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard on Tuesday in a surprising move after the Colts returned to the playoff race.
The decision to part ways with Leonard, the 2018 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, comes shortly after he publicly complained about his decreased playing time this season.
Indy (5-5) was slowly trying to get the playmaking linebacker back after undergoing two back surgeries to repair a nerve injury.
“Indy, I want to thank you for accepting me and my family with open arms,” Leonard wrote in part in a social media post. “These last six years have been incredible! In the good and bad times everyone was by my side. “I apologize for not bringing that trophy (Lombardi) to 317.”
The Colts had no players available Tuesday, their typical off day. Indy had a bye last week after beating the New England Patriots in Germany to get back to .500.
Leonard was best known for two traits on the field: his ability to chase down opponents and his penchant for creating turnovers.
The injury substantially limited those abilities in 2021 and 2022, when he missed all but three games due to various injuries.
“Shaq is the ultimate competitor and has been a fan favorite since arriving as a rookie in 2018,” general manager Chris Ballard said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful for his contributions to the team and the city of Indianapolis over the past six seasons. We wish him the best and he will always be a valued member of Horseshoe.”
Leonard played in 70 games, started 68 and had 614 tackles in six and a half seasons. He had 32 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, 31 passes defended, 12 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.
Last year, he was Indy’s nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and winner of the team’s Ed Block Courage Award.
He had 65 tackles in nine games this season, but had no sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries.
“Colts Nation will always remember ‘The Maniac’s’ palpable energy on the field with every tackle, interception, hit and fumble recovery,” team owner Jim Irsay said in a statement.
“Off the field, he is a servant leader and has helped numerous families both in his hometown and in the Indianapolis community. We are grateful for Shaq and the contributions he made to our organization. We wish him and his beautiful family the best moving forward.”
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