There are days when Pat Angerer looks in a mirror and asks himself if it is really worth it.
The answer is always the same.
"Hell, yeah," Angerer said. “I owe it to myself and to my family to keep fighting, to get myself ready for the next battle. I still have some football left in me. I know I can still play and I want to play."
The Bettendorf native works daily to prepare himself to make that a reality.
Angerer, selected by Indianapolis in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft following an all-American career at Iowa, finds himself at a crossroads after becoming an unrestricted free agent last month after the Colts opted not to re-sign him.
The decision came as Angerer continues to work his way back from surgery on Dec. 30 to repair a microfracture on his right knee, the latest in a string of injuries to the same leg that led Indianapolis to its decision.
“It’s a business and I understand their reasoning. I haven’t been healthy the last two years, and that’s the tough part for me and I’m sure for them," Angerer said. “It’s a waiting game now."
Angerer has proven he belongs in an NFL uniform.
He appeared in 54 regular-season games over the past four seasons for the Colts, starting 39 at inside linebacker.
A fractured bone in his right foot during a preseason game in 2012 led to the first two of the four surgeries Angerer has dealt with over the past two seasons.
Before that, he demonstrated how dominant he can be. Angerer led the Colts and ranked fourth in the NFL with 146 tackles during the 2011 season after ranking second on the team with 75 tackles during his rookie season.
Last fall, despite missing five games, he finished third on the team with 87 stops.
“They would give me a shot of cortisone and some pain killers and I’d go play," Angerer said. “I dealt with it. I played hurt and I tried to do what was best for the team. I gave it all I could."
That won’t change.
Nearly 14 weeks into an estimated six-month rehabilitation process, Angerer believes he is “pretty far ahead of schedule" and said he could run now if he needed to, but this time he will not rush things and still expects to be ready to go in June or July.
He has fielded inquiries from a handful of NFL teams, but all want him healthy first and Angerer is taking the same approach.
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“My energies right now are on two things, my family and spending this offseason to get healthy," Angerer said. “I’m going to do what’s right big time and then go from there."
Angerer and his wife, Mary Beth, are expecting the birth of the couple’s second son this month and the timing will allow him to spend more family time than was possible when his first son, Cael, was born.
“Cael came along during the season and I was given the day off and then it was back to work," said Angerer, who is contemplating relocating his family from the suburbs of Indianapolis to the Quad-Cities.
“I’ve always given what I can for my team and that won’t change moving forward. That’s who I am and what I’m about."
Before that happens, Angerer will concentrate on his own health.
While other NFL players are preparing for the start of out-of-season camps later this month, Angerer will continue to focus on returning to full strength in his daily work with physical rehab specialists.
“When I get on the field, I want to come back ready to contribute as part of a good organization," he said. “I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always been part of well-run organizations, from Bettendorf to playing for coach (Kirk) Ferentz at Iowa and coach (Jim) Caldwell at Indianapolis and I look forward to that continuing."
For that to happen, Angerer understands it starts with him returning to full strength.
“I need to take the time now to get my body right and put myself in a position where I can play the game the way I know I can play it," Angerer said. “I’ve got the time to make that happen, to get healthy again. It’s been a blessing to be able to play the game at the level I’ve been able to play it at — I don’t take that for granted — and I look forward to making that happen again."