Hagler Battles Adversity, Injuries to Continue Making an Impact for Colts
INDIANAPOLIS – Tyjuan Hagler said his confidence never waned. Not this past off-season, or in the early weeks of this season.
Not in all of the other difficult seasons, either.
Hagler, the Colts' outside linebacker, said he's not sure why that's the case, exactly, but said while it's true that his six seasons around the NFL haven't been smooth or easy, he does know this:
He loves playing football.
And he doesn't want to give it up anytime soon.
So, when Hagler was asked about perseverance and playing through difficult situations, his answer came as a shrug.
Hagler said he wants to play, and will do what he can to do so.
"It hasn't been easy," Hagler said this week as the AFC South-leading Colts (6-3) prepared to play the AFC East-leading New England Patriots (7-2) at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"It's really just perseverance. It's crazy. It's hard to put in words, honestly. I guess it's just a 'never-give-up attitude.' You've always got to keep working.
"I don't like to stay down, so I always keep working and think positive."
If that approach hasn't made for an easy NFL career for Hagler since the Colts drafted him in the fifth round from Cincinnati in 2005, it has made him a productive player at times.
It's also made him a valued player among teammates.
"He's a hard-working guy, and a guy you always want on your team," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said. "He's a great teammate. He's good linebacker.
"He's a starter. We don't miss a beat with him."
The issue for Hagler:
Not productivity, but the opunity to be productive.
Hagler, after being selected by the Colts, spent his rookie season of 2005 on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a sports hernia. While he has spent a large part of each season since with the Colts, he never has played a complete season.
He missed seven games in 2006, then started seven of 12 games in 2007 before missing the first month and a half of 2008 on PUP. He re-signed with the Colts late in the 2009 off-season, then earned a starting position during training camp before being placed on injured reserve with an arm injury.
The Colts didn't initially re-sign him this past off-season, then re-acquired him as a free agent on September 29 after injuries to the linebacker position.
Hagler has played in each game since, starting against Philadelphia two weeks ago.
"It's like he never misses a beat," Mathis said. "He's one of the guys you call a core guy. He's a home-grown guy. He comes back, and it's like he's never missed a beat."
The Colts have dealt with multiple injuries much of this season, and Caldwell said Hagler being able to fill in quickly and perform at a high level has been critical for the Colts' defense.
"It's been good because of the fact that he certainly understands our system, how we do things," Caldwell said. "He's been able to do them well. Tyjuan has speed. He is smart. He fills in a lot of roles for us. It's a nice thing to be able to use him in a nickel situation and then obviously in our special teams.
"He is a versatile enough guy that he can play several positions inside. That is indeed helpful."
Said Hagler, "I know the system and I know the coaches fairly well. They know me as a person and as a player. We mesh and things always seem to just fall into place."
Hagler, who has nine tackles on defense in six games, also has a sack this season, and this past Sunday, he turned in one of his most memorable plays with the Colts, intercepting Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and returning it 35 yards to set up a second-half Colts field goal.
The play was originally ruled a touchdown, but officials overturned the play after determining Hagler had tripped over Palmer's extended leg around the 10-yard line.
"He got tackled by a quarterback – on a clip," Mathis said, smiling. "He messed up our celebration. Make sure you put that in there, that he gets a fine for that, but here's a great teammate. He's a hard-working guy."
Hagler said while Sunday was a big moment, he wasn't surprised by the play, or that he has been productive since returning to the Colts.
"It's what I do," he said. "In the end, everything always works out, so I'm going to keep going knowing everything will work out."
Even in the most difficult times, Hagler said that has been his approach, and asked if he ever allowed himself to think maybe things wouldn't work out, he said, "Maybe for a split second."
"It will come around every once in a while, then I come back to my senses: 'No, this is what I want to do,'' he said. "This is what I love to do. I'm going to keep working to get better.
"I just try to stay focused. I always think about the task at hand, and I don't like to go backwards. I'm still confident and know I can play this game at a high level.
"I still have a lot of room to get better."