Indianapolis Colts linebacker Pat Angerer delivered his first hit of the season last Sunday and peppered it with six weeks of pent-up aggression.
He leveled Cleveland Browns receiver Greg Little after a catch, and the Indianapolis home crowd responded with an enormous ovation.
“I wanted to celebrate, but it was like a nine-yard gain, so…,” Angerer said, then smiled wryly. “But it was fun. It was nice to get that out of the way right off the bat.”
Angerer, who missed the first five Colts games after suffering a broken foot, won't start today at Tennessee, but interim coach Bruce Arians plans to increase his playing time. That's good news for the Colts, not only because Angerer is a talented player (he led the Colts and was fourth in the NFL in tackles last season), but because of the emotional lift he provides.
The Colts (3-3) play the Titans (3-4) at 1 p.m. today at LP Field, Nashville.
Angerer's play last season made the Colts comfortable severing ties in the offseason with talented linebacker Gary Brackett, who was also the defensive captain. While he has been missed to open the season, the emergence of former Canadian Football League player Jerrell Freeman has increased the depth in the Colts' linebacking corps.
The Colts could end up playing Angerer and Freeman together.
For now, Angerer will ease his way back in, in terms of number of plays. There's no “easing” back in when it comes to his style of play.
Angerer finished with six tackles against the Browns and his presence was obvious.
“You want to go hard and it's tough running on and off the field (during a series), but I think it was smart,” Angerer said. “I was sore toward the end of the game, but it was so awesome being out there.”
Arians said he was pleased with Angerer's initial return to the field.
“He came through fine,” he said. “Hopefully, we'll up his snaps a few and not overdo it again. We'll monitor it throughout the ballgame.”
Angerer is one of several formerly injured defensive players expected to play today. Defensive end Cory Redding will be back, and outside linebacker Robert Mathis is a game-time decision.
“You want to be out there with those guys that you've been going to war with from Day One,” rush end Dwight Freeney said. “Hopefully, we'll get some guys back and continue with that momentum.”
The Colts have yet to play a strong game on the road, losing at Chicago and to the New York Jets. The game at Tennessee is even more important because it's a division game. A win would keep the Colts in contention in a tight AFC playoff race as they near midseason.
Angerer says he's not sure why the team hasn't played better on the road, although he emphasized the fact they haven't had many chances yet.
“It's only been two games, but they were pretty significant losses,” Angerer said. “I don't think we started off as fast as we would have liked. On the road, creating turnovers is a big thing and we haven't created them. We've had too many of those and that's a big focus point: Start out fast, create turnovers and don't try to do too much.”