Shaquille Leonard getting "closer and closer" to player he was in 2019

Shaquille Leonard doesn't have any doubts, but he knows others do. The Colts linebacker has heard his critics loud and clear, saving the worst of the hot takes as screenshots on his phone.

“I’m just gaining more heart, knowing that so many people are counting me out, just having the will to keep going,” Leonard said, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. “No matter how many times I’ve been knocked down, just continue to get back up and continue to put my best foot forward.”

A pair of back surgeries limited him to three games and 74 snaps last season.

It took a long time for the three-time All-Pro to get back to where he was, but he's almost there.

“It’s better,” Leonard said. “I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to the guy I was back in ’19. I’m happy with where I’m at.”

Leonard cleared concussion protocol and is full speed ahead to a return Sunday against the Jaguars. It will be his first game since Nov. 6.

“Very excited,’’ Leonard said. “Just looking forward to getting the opportunity to get back out there on the field and competing with my guys.’’