In somewhat of a surprise move, the Vikings on Wednesday waived promising UDFA tight end AC Leonard. Why did they decide to do this? That is a very good question.
Seen as a project with tremendous upside, Leonard entered camp with a real chance to score a roster spot, especially considering the injury to Chase Ford. But last week Leonard left practice complaining of headaches, and though the Vikings made every effort to find out what was wrong, the situation remained murky and mysterious and Leonard never returned to the practice field.
Since the Vikings don’t wish to explain what happened with Leonard beyond his “headaches,” we can only speculate on the reasons behind the move to cut him. We do know this: the Vikings did not waive Leonard with the intention of putting him on injured reserve. To do that, the Vikes would have had to waive Leonard with an injury designation, but they did not do so.
There will be no return to injured reserve for AC Leonard and there will be no injury settlement. The Vikings flat out waived Leonard and are under no further obligation.
A talented player who put up freakish work out numbers at his pro day, Leonard came to the Vikings with plenty of baggage. Originally signed to Florida after being recruited by Urban Meyer, Leonard was dismissed from school after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from an incident where he allegedly beat up his girlfriend and dragged her across the floor by her hair.
Leonard eventually found his way to Tennessee State where he flashed plenty of raw potential but not a lot of polish. A combination of rawness and dubious character caused teams to shy away from Leonard at the draft, allowing him to hit the UDFA pool.
The Vikings quickly snapped Leonard up with an eye toward giving him a shot at the #2 receiving tight end job behind Kyle Rudolph. Everything seemed to be going fine until the headache issue popped up, an issue the Vikings seemed somewhat perplexed by.
The Vikes put Leonard through tests and determined he did not have a concussion. The tight end continued showing up for work but was never able to actually practice. The way he was let go will lead people to speculate that there is more to this story than just a player being cut because of a physical problem. Add Leonard’s past personal issues into the mix and it seems very likely that some stuff went down between Leonard and the Vikings’ coaching staff that made them finally get fed up and tell him to hit the road.
Sad. But Leonard would hardly be the first player to squander great physical ability by being immature and unwilling to get with the program. You come across these players every now and then. Since the Vikings had nothing invested in him but a small amount of UDFA money, it was easy for them to cut him loose once they decided it wasn’t going to work out.
In the end, this hurts AC Leonard a lot more than it hurts the Vikings.