Shaquille Leonard may have been cut by the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday, but he still had work to do in the area. Leonard showed up and handed out 200 turkeys at a Thanksgiving drive just hours after he was released by the Colts.
Leonard spent roughly two hours handing out turkeys, interacting with Colts fans, signing autographs and hanging out with a few of his now ex-teammates, according to the Indianapolis Star.
#Colts LB Shaq Leonard joked that he felt like Craig from the movie “Friday” since he got cut on his day off, but he still showed up to pass out turkeys to the Indy community for Thanksgiving.
“I’m all about giving back. Through tough times, good times, no matter what it is.” pic.twitter.com/EGm72Y0J7n
— James Boyd (@RomeovilleKid) November 21, 2023
Leonard also addressed his release, calling it "very tough, mentally, physically and emotionally."
The Colts surprisingly released Leonard on Tuesday, just two years after signing him to a five-year, $98.5 million extension. At the time, the deal made Leonard the highest-paid inside linebacker in football.
He was well worth that contract. Over his first four seasons in the NFL, Leonard was one of the best players in football. He was named to three All-Pro teams over that period and took home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2018.
Following the 2021 season, Leonard underwent back surgery. The injury sidelined him for the start of the 2022 NFL season. Leonard then dealt with various other injuries before his back sidelined him once again. He underwent a second back surgery last November.
Leonard recovered in time to start the 2024 regular season. Though he started all nine games for the Colts, Leonard's snap share declined. That led to a meeting with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who told Leonard he would be benched and made inactive for the team's Week 12 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The next day, the team released Leonard.
Following the release, Leonard needs to pass through waivers. If he goes unclaimed, he's free to negotiate a contract with any team. Leonard expressed a desire to keep playing, saying he wanted to prove the Colts wrong.
"I want to be sure that they understand that I can play ball," Leonard said.