Offseason was about mental health for Darius Leonard

INDIANAPOLIS – It took Darius Leonard two months to get over the loss in Jacksonville, and even longer to find himself again.

The Colts’ All-Pro linebacker didn’t feel right when last season ended. Not physically, with an ankle surgery that just couldn’t heal; not mentally, with the loss of a cousin and the sickness gripping his father and sister and tugging on his heart.

For weeks last winter, his family needed him as a job kept him hundreds of miles away. But that job was such a public failure down the stretch that the moment he had time on his side, he did not know what to do with it. Shame awaited him back home, with questions about what happened on that field in Jacksonville.

“I ask everybody how they’re doing. Sometimes it’s OK to ask me how I’m doing,” Leonard said. “Don’t ask me just to ask me. Ask me to truly have a conversation with me and to understand that I’m a human, too. I have problems. I go through things that a lot of people are going through.”

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard just turned in his third All-Pro season in four years by leading the NFL with 15 forced turnovers.

More on Leonard: Colts LB Darius Leonard says troublesome left ankle ‘feels a whole lot better than it did’

Not an easy topic: Gregg Doyel: Mental health is not a convenient topic, and it’s too important to ignore

It is ironic that a star in America’s most popular sport, a man with 300,000 followers between Twitter and Instagram and the star of the weekly HBO series “Hard Knocks” can feel so misunderstood. Football starts as the vehicle to success. Then it becomes the façade, with each sack dance and Instagram filter pulling the curtains tighter until it leaves him in the dark.

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