INDIANAPOLIS – Pat Angerer was an unquestioned leader in 2011 when he topped the club with 146 tackles, a total that ranked fourth-most in the league.
With six double-digit tackle games, he was a stalwart in a 2-14 season.
On the first play of last preseason, Angerer broke his foot and after surgery, he labored through a season that involved only three starts in 11 appearances.
It was a frustrating year for a driven individual. After more off-season medical attention, he is ready to return to action Saturday against Cleveland.
"It feels good, really good," said Angerer of his wheels and the opportunity to play. "My legs feel better than they've felt for a couple of years. Emotionally, it's really relieving. I'm excited to get out there."
Angerer opened training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List, meaning more work with the medical staff while his teammates mixed it up on the field.
When he was cleared for action on August 13, Angerer was eager for contact.
"Yeah, I was ready. The first rep I had in training camp was like a busted play. I ran into the offensive linemen just so I could get a hit," said Angerer.
Angerer went through the emotions of a long season a year ago. Doctors did a surgery that prescribed a six-to-eight week recovery process. Angerer wanted to shave that in half ("I am usually dumb about injuries."), but the recovery took the full period.
While his dedication was noticed by teammates and their regard for him was the utmost, Angerer was not able to play at peak level.
"Rest was really the only thing," said Angerer of last year. "During the season, you don't have the opportunity to rest. I rushed it. In the off-season, I was able to rest it, and I'm rested enough. I'm ready to go. You can't be a leader from the sidelines."
Chuck Pagano fought a fight of his own last season, one of a more critical nature than Angerer, and they will share the field Saturday for only the fourth time.
"He looks really good. He's in a great place, (the) first time in a long time for him," said Pagano. "He's looked really good, and we'll keep a close eye on. If we can get him 15 to 20 significant snaps and get him out of there, that'd probably be great."
Angerer said his straight-on running ability was fine and the last thing to come was cutting and moving laterally.
That hurdle now passed, he is nearing the Angerer of old.
"Where I want to be mentally, I honestly don't think I'm ever going to be there," said Angerer. "Obviously, I want to be perfect. There's still work to be done. Things are on the right track. Things are a little rusty. It's still been fun.
"Whatever they want me to do, I'm excited to get out there. Whatever it is, I'm down for it. I'm ready to tackle somebody. It's been a long road."