INDIANAPOLIS –What has been a stagnant start to the 2012 season hopefully will pick up on Sunday for Pat Angerer.
Angerer, a mainstay in the middle of the Indianapolis defense in his first two seasons, broke a foot on the first play of the preseason opener against St. Louis on August 12 and has been sidelined ever since.
As the NFL season enters week five, the Colts are playing their fourth game this Sunday at home against Green Bay. Angerer practiced Monday and today and hopes to find time back on the field.
"That's the plan. The big thing we'll see is how it (foot) is the next day," said Angerer. "It's up to the coaches. As a player and competitor, you have to think about the team first. If I'm out there slow, I don't want to hurt the team. I want to be out there. I want to play. No matter how long they have me on the field, I want to play. Initially, they said (I would be out) six-to-eight weeks. I thought four (laughs), but I was wrong.
"It's one of those things where you want to play, but you want to play well enough to not let your team down. If I'm out there jogging around and not being able to go at my fullest and let the guys down, I don't want that."
When he is able to return, Angerer senses no issues with his physical condition.
"I feel like my condition level is pretty good. I've been on the bike forever, the elliptical. I'm running more now than I have before," said Angerer. "I'm sure once you get on the field and get the adrenaline I'll be (fine)."
Angerer has been a superb presence for the Colts since being a second-round pick in 2010. He ranked second on the team as a rookie with 75 tackles, 50 solo, in opening 11 of 16 outings.
In 2011, Angerer did not miss a start in amassing 146 tackles, 76 solo. He topped the team in takedowns and ranked fourth in the NFL.
An outside linebacker in the opener a year ago, Angerer moved to the middle after starter Gary Brackett suffered a season-ending injury. He flourished in the role, producing five of his six double-digit tackle games after the switch, including a career-high with 20 stops against Pittsburgh in week three of last season.
This could be Angerer's first game action in the club's hybrid 3-4 attack, one in which he practiced all spring and during camp prior to his injury. He believes he can play reactively without having to think too much, but he still is learning.
"Even being out there the last couple of days, I was thinking a little bit," said Angerer. "Every time I step out there, I feel more comfortable."
In Angerer's absence at the "will" position, free agent addition Jerrell Freeman has played well. Freeman has 47 tackles, 24 solo, a team-leading total. He has topped the team in tackles in every game (13 at Chicago; 18, vs. Minnesota; 16 vs. Jacksonville).
A two-year starter at Iowa who opened 13 games his final season before starting 27 of his first 32 professional opportunities, Angerer has felt the sting of inaction due to injury.
"It would mean a lot (to return). I hated being out. It (stunk). It was terrible," said Angerer. "You don't realize how much you love the game until you can't do it anymore. I can't wait to get out there to play. I've been able to be a part of it and go to the games to be helpful. You just miss being out there with the guys.
"(Jerrell Freeman) has been doing tremendous and Kavell (Conner). They've been playing great. A benefit of sitting out is I've had a chance to kind of sit back and kind of learn the defense all over again and try to see what everybody else is doing."
Angerer's presence would bolster a linebacking unit that is put in a position to make plays. End Cory Redding claims the system is designed that way because of the opposing blockers the defensive front commands.
"If you just trust the system, guys up front (will absorb blockers and) you see he's (the 'will' linebacker) free," said Redding of the 3-4. "Not too many guys get normal (blocking). Antonio Johnson is eating two guys (blockers) up every play. Fili Moala is eating two guys (blockers) up every play. I'm taking on a tackle and tight end most every play.
"As long as we're eating up two guys most every play, he's going to be free. If we have flat backs across the line, our backers can flow and made plays. Just trust the system. The system works."
Redding does not have to convince Angerer. He knows he will be in the heart of the action when he returns, something that is much better than mental reps.
"There are plays to be made," said Angerer. "Being able to sit back and see the whole defense from this perspective has been (educational), (but) you can't beat game time. I definitely need to be on the field."
Redding could be seeing Angerer in action for the first time. A man of intensity and instinct, he sees the same qualities in Angerer.
"Pat has been around, and he's been moving around a lot," said Redding. "I miss (number) 51 back there making plays. He can bring his attitude, his toughness (and) his ability to find the ball. Those intangible things a linebacker can bring, he possesses those qualities. His style of play is tough-nosed, downhill, 'want-to-hit-the-fullback.' That style of play."
Linebacker Coach Jeff Fitzgerald knows Angerer's inaction has been difficult for such a high-motor performer.
"He's had a tough go," said Fitzgerald. "It's been a long time since he's played football and it's been hard on him, real hard on him. He's going to be rusty. It's just a matter of him being out so long that he's going to have to work himself back in a little bit."