INDIANAPOLIS –On Monday, Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians said he hoped to get linebacker Pat Angerer, among others, back on the practice field.
Angerer has participated in all of one play this year. It was the first snap of the preseason opener against St. Louis, and Angerer suffered a broken foot that has kept him out since then.
Angerer has worked intermittently in practice over the past couple of weeks, and Arians hopes to add last year's leading tackler to this year's lineup.
Angerer started in the middle of last season's 4-3 defense for the last 15 games. He moved to the inside spot after middle linebacker Gary Brackett suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in week one.
Angerer had 146 tackles, total that led the team and ranked fourth in the NFL. Angerer was adapting to the hybrid 3-4 scheme installed by Head Coach Chuck Pagano when he suffered the injury after a productive spring and early training camp.
In Angerer's absence, free agent addition Jerrell Freeman came on and has led the team in tackles each week. Freeman had 13 tackles at Chicago, 18 against Minnesota, 16 against Jacksonville, 11 against Green Bay and 19 last week at the New York Jets. His 77 stops lead the team runner-up, safety Antoine Bethea (40), by a wide margin.
As Arians hopes for the return of a good player, it will bolster the unit as a whole. Angerer is a proven commodity. Freeman has become one, and "mike" linebacker Kavell Conner is a third-year performer with speed and wallop. The three will combine to fortify the inside of the new scheme.
"On, man, you talk about a diamond in the rough. Free (Jerrell Freeman) has come on and without him we wouldn't have had a shot," said Arians on the "Pagano Show" to host Bob Lamey on Monday night. "He's the glue over there right now and to get Pat back, I really want to see those two guys out there together. I think it's going to help us a bunch.
"Kavell (Conner) has been in there doing everything he can, giving a great effort but Pat is a double-digit tackler, too, in the past. Getting both those guys out there will be fun."
Nothing is set in stone for how the defense will be constructed. The return of Angerer is the first thing that must happen. Prior to playing inside, Angerer started on the strong side in 2010. Conner has started 29 career games and will continue to play a vital role.
"It's still up in the air. We want to play both of them (Angerer and Freeman) together," said Arians. "It's whether or not we want to start Free all over again or let Pat, who has been around the system since the spring, just play the 'mike' and split time with Kavell.
"He's (Angerer) not going to be full-speed, 60 plays. You can't come back from a five-week, six-week injury and go out there and play 60, 65 plays. It's impossible. It's probably going to be splitting time with Kavell."
Freeman joined the Colts this spring after playing three seasons (2009-11) with Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League. He totaled 144 career tackles, 13 sacks three interceptions, four fumbles recovered and scored a touchdown, earning league all-star honors last year.
Freeman played in two Grey Cup games with Saskatchewan. He is the first player ever from Mary Hardin-Baylor to reach the NFL.
He is not the only player from that league on the unit. Free agent Justin Hickman joined the Colts the same way this year as did Freeman. Hickman, a former collegiate roommate of Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew at UCLA, played for the same three seasons (2009-11) with Hamilton.
Hickman totaled 144 tackles, 27 sacks and three fumbles recovered in his CFL stint, earning all-star honors in 2011. Hickman started 18 games in each of his seasons with Hamilton.
The field dimensions in the CFL are different than in the NFL, and Arians noted the type of players that typically inhabit that league.
"Normally, it's a 'space' league, so you're getting fast, 'space' players," said Arians. "Both those guys are quick and fast and can move around. Free has taken the pounding pretty good for more of an under-sized type of guy. Hick is the same way. He's an edge player with speed. It's a shame because a knee injury slowed him down in camp. I think he's just now getting back to full speed."
ROSTER MOVES -- The Indianapolis Colts today signed tight end Weslye Saunders. The Colts also waived outside linebacker Jerry Brown and quarterback Chandler Harnish from the active roster and released tight end Dominique Jones from the practice squad.
Saunders, 6-5, 270 pounds, spent last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played in 16 games, making six starts. He compiled a total of four receptions for 29 yards and one touchdown. Saunders originally signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent on July 26, 2011 and was waived on October 12, 2012.
Brown played in one game this year, his first career game against the New York Jets in Week 6. He was originally signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent on May 23, 2012 and was waived on August 31. Brown was then signed to the practice squad on September 1 and elevated to the active roster on October 10.
Harnish was originally selected by the Colts in the seventh round (253rd overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft and was inactive for all five regular season games this year.
Jones played in four games (one start) this season and had one reception for eight yards. He was originally signed by the Colts on April 30, 2012. Jones was then waived on October 8 and signed to the practice squad on October 10.