Riley Leonard makes surprise return to Notre Dame football practice

The Notre Dame football quarterback has been out after another ankle surgery, but he participated in drills on Wednesday.

Notre Dame quarterback Riley Leonard (13) at Notre Dame spring football practice
Notre Dame quarterback Riley Leonard (13) at Notre Dame spring football practice / GREG SWIERCZ / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Another day, another dollar for Notre Dame football in spring practices, right? Today’s practice was a bit different than the others over the last week or so, mainly because there was a surprise contributor.

Riley Leonard returned to Notre Dame football practice just a week after undergoing a second surgery on the same ankle that cut his 2023 season short. It’s clear from everyone who saw the transfer quarterback return to the field on Wednesday that it wasn’t something anyone outside of the program expected.

Leonard didn’t put on pads and he obviously didn’t go through contact drills, but he was able to walk around wearing a Tayco Brace. That in and of itself is a major change as he had been spotted wheeling around practice on one of those carts that allow someone with a leg injury to keep it off the ground and somewhat elevated.

Onlookers noted that the odds-on favorite to be the starting Notre Dame football quarterback looked a bit gimpy at times, though it’s impossible to know whether that’s due to Leonard’s ankle hurting, or simply wearing a bulky brace he’s not used to having on.

Notre Dame football has surprise return from Riley Leonard

When it came to throwing the football, it looked as though he was able to put plenty of zip on the ball. He was also able to push off the ankle that just had its second surgery in a number of weeks. Obivously he wasn’t having to avoid defenders or even roll out more than a few steps.

The importance of Riley Leonard’s return can’t be overstated. When it was announced he was missing the rest of the spring because of the surgery, it immediately threw everything into a state of flux.

While he’s expected to be the Notre Dame football starter this fall, that becomes a big question if he has to sit out all of the spring and much of the summer. His appearance on Wednesday could hint at a quicker full comeback than expected.