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Colts Pay Tribute To Recently Released Linebacker Shaquille Leonard

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Linebacker Shaquille Leonard, a surprising cut by the Colts last week despite his three-time first-team All-Pro status, received a heartfelt tribute at Sunday’s game in Lucas Oil Stadium. Seated in a suite, Leonard garnered a loud ovation from the crowd, while the team expressed gratitude on the stadium’s video screens.

This uncommon scene featured a player who, due to declining skills following injury rehab, was abruptly released, yet made a public appearance to support the team in its subsequent game. The video screens displayed a “Thank You” message to Leonard, capturing him and his family watching the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from their suite.

As Leonard waved to the crowd, the resounding ovation brought a wide smile to his face.

Shortly after this in-game tribute, linebacker Ronnie Harrison Jr., who assumed Leonard’s spot on the active roster, intercepted Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield, eliciting an immediate reaction from Leonard.

Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin, drafted alongside Leonard in 2018, described this as the “weirdest week of my career.”

“It really was all the way up until pregame. You never notice the little things until they’re not there. So, I was just happy that he got the celebration and the farewell that he deserved. But like I said, I know he’s got bigger and better things in his future. So, I always root for him,” Franklin said of his close friend after the¬†Colts’ 27-20 victory¬†Sunday.

Leonard had been struggling to regain his previous form after undergoing two back surgeries in 2022 to address nerve issues causing lower-body pain. Consequently, his playing time became inconsistent, and on Monday, the team informed him that he would be benched and inactive for the rest of the season.

However, within 24 hours, the team reconsidered, deeming it unfair to ask a player of Leonard’s caliber to practice on the scout team and watch games from the sideline in regular clothes. Consequently, Leonard was informed on Tuesday that he was being waived.

Despite the release, Leonard emphasized the significance of the team and the community to him, evident in his commitment to a planned turkey giveaway where his foundation distributed 200 turkeys and sides for Thanksgiving dinners.

True to form, Leonard asserted that his release wouldn’t alter his disposition, and Sunday’s appearance was a testament to that resilience.

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