INDIANAPOLIS — Darius Leonard has a list of accomplishments he fell short of last season, and he'll recite them any time a reporter asks whether he remains hungry entering Year 2.
He didn't win the Super Bowl. He wasn't named to the AFC Pro Bowl team. And he didn't win NFL MVP.
The first goal isn't entirely in his hands, and the second was the robbery of 2018. But the third goal would be historic.
Only two defensive players in history have been named league MVP — Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page in 1971 and New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986.
In an increasingly pass-oriented league, only three non-quarterbacks have won the award since 2002 — Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander (2005), San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (2006) and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (2012).
Reminded of the supreme odds stacked against an inside linebacker winning the honor, Leonard shrugged.
“It’s still a chip (on my shoulder),” he said. “You make a goal, and you strive to get that goal.”
So, of course, an early spring ankle surgery isn't going to slow the man known as “The Maniac” down for long, either.
Leonard played most of his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts on a balky ankle and still set a franchise record for single-season tackles. But he hoped to avoid surgery in the offseason.
When he reported for offseason conditioning, however, something didn't feel right.
“I thought, with the rest, it would heal by itself,” Leonard said. “But, coming back, running on it, it didn’t feel good. I wasn’t 100 percent. So I was just glad we caught it when we did.”
The 23-year-old is short on specifics when it comes to the injury.
It kept him out of a Thursday night loss against the New England Patriots last year, and the coaches limited his practice time late in the week to compensate throughout the season.
But Leonard claims not even to be certain of what type of surgery was performed to correct the injury.
“I don’t know, honestly,” he said. “I was asleep. All I know, they said they was going in through the back and I would feel better.”
He does feel better now.
Though he'll miss the team's offseason workouts for the second straight year, he has been working hard with the training staff on the side. And, like sidelined quarterback Andrew Luck, he's been a major presence in the meeting room.
For Leonard, the goal is to be 100 percent for training camp in late July. And he's certain that will happen.
As for his loftier aspirations?
Don't expect Leonard to lower his sights any time soon.
“It's just coming from where I came from, not having much growing up and just knowing that I’m one step away from being back where I came,” he said of his motivation. “So I just want to come to work every day and just strive to be the best.”
Every player is trying to prove his worth to the roster this time of year, and the more that player can do, the better his chances of making the team.
Free agent running back Spencer Ware is getting creative with that process.
A high school All-American at quarterback, he unsuccessfully lobbied head coach Andy Reid for the opportunity to throw a pass during a regular season game in his three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
And he's already begun working on Colts head coach Frank Reich.
“(Reich) kind of smirked a little bit and walked away. But, we’ll see,” Ware said. “I’ll go out there one time maybe when Andrew (Luck) is out there and sit beside him and start checking, and he’ll see.”
PLAY OF THE DAY
The highlight of Wednesday's second day of training camp came from rookie cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
The second round pick out of Temple fought through wide receiver Krishawn Hogan — including what appeared to be an offensive facemask penalty — to intercept quarterback Jacoby Brissett in one-on-one drills.
It was the latest display of Ya-Sin's ballhawk nature, and the 23-year-old admitted a day earlier he's feeling more comfortable with the defensive scheme.
“Finally, my head is not spinning like it was the first few days,” he said. “I think it’s starting to slow down a little bit, and (I'm) starting to get the hang of it.”