Outside LB Hagler Confident After Returning to Colts in Off-season
INDIANAPOLIS – Tyjuan Hagler can see how people would think he might be frustrated.
Hagler, a veteran linebacker who recently re-signed with the Colts, said it's understandable that some people would assume he wouldn't like his situation.
He was, after all, starting for the Colts two seasons ago.
Now, he's entering training camp as a backup.
But Hagler, who re-joined the Colts shortly after the 2009 NFL Draft after briefly testing free agency, said the fact is quite the opposite is true, and that rather than disliking and resenting his current situation he enters the 2009 season optimistic.
As optimistic, in fact, as he has been in some time.
"There's a lot of confidence," Hagler said recently during the Colts' off-season conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "I'm very confident going into this year, because I have a lot to prove and I definitely believe I'm going to prove it."
Hagler, a fifth-round selection by the Colts in the 2005 NFL Draft, played three seasons with the Colts after spending his rookie season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
While dealing with injuries in each of his four seasons, he emerged as a solid special teams player, and in 2007, he developed into a starting linebacker, starting seven games at outside linebacker. He finished that season with 60 tackles and entering last year's training camp as a starter.
But late in the off-season, Hagler sustained a torn pectoral injury.
He spent training camp on the PUP List, and by the time he returned after missing five regular-season games, second-year veteran Clint Session was starting. Hagler played nine games, starting three and making 21 tackles, but never regained a permanent starting position.
Still, when Hagler became a free agent he said he returned to the Colts despite receiving offers from other franchises, including Houston.
The reason, he said, was he believed the Colts would be clear and honest about their expectations of him, even if their expectations weren't exactly what he wanted to hear.
"That was really the main thing, because obviously I had better offers on the table, but in the same sense, I wasn't guaranteed a starting role," Hagler said. "I'm not guaranteed a starting role here, either, but in that same sense, I know where I stand here.
"In other places, I was in the land of the unknown. Let's say Houston. They had an offer on the table. I asked them, 'So what are your plans for the draft? Are you getting a linebacker the first three rounds?' They said they were, so I said, 'OK . . .' I knew they were trying to sign (former Colts linebacker) Cato (June), so I said, 'OK, the first-round pick will probably make more money than me. He'll be out there, so I'm pretty sure I have to weigh my options.' "
Once he thought seriously about it, he said the decision to return wasn't difficult.
"I like everything about this place, the organization," he said. "I'm a big fan of (Colts President Bill) Polian and (Head Coach Jim) Caldwell and of course, the linebackers coach (Mike Murphy). I just felt comfortable.
"It's a great place. They've got a great program; we have a chance to win a Super Bowl."
With Session returning and with second-year veteran Philip Wheeler possibly moving into a starting role, Hagler said he knows he may not have a chance to start this season. But he said the Colts were clear about that when they re-signed him.
"That's what you have to respect," he said. "They'll be honest with you. That's very imant, because I don't want to be in a situation feeling blind. I feel they're honest and up front with me, letting me know how it's going to be.
"That really makes me feel comfortable. I don't want to be blindsided by any fluke thing that comes out of it."
And while Hagler said he knows observers and analysts are talking about Wheeler and Session this off-season, he said he understands that, "but in the same sense, everyone's out there competing for a starting job, so it's competition."
"We have a lot of talented guys and a lot of very smart guys, very athletic and they can play the game," he said. "We're looking fairly good at that position now."
And Hagler said while he knows Wheeler and Session are "penciled in" as starters, he also said something else is equally true – that he believes injuries are the only thing that have kept him from having a starting role of his own.
That, he said, is something he hopes to prove this year.
"I have a whole lot of confidence," he said. "I don't think I've played my best football yet. There's still a lot of football left in me. Injuries have slowed me down and kept me from performing, but I've got a lot of football in me and I'm only going to continue to get better. I've proven I can play at a high level in this league but in the same sense, I have to prove that I can stay healthy now and play a full 16 games. I know exactly what I'm doing. I don't make many mental mistakes at all, if any.
"I'm not frustrated at all. I definitely have a positive attitude toward everything and I'm looking forward to the season, because I believe it's going to be a huge year for me.
"I believe I'm definitely going to be able to showcase my talents."