ANDERSON – Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky didn't sound like Pat Angerer's starting spot is in jeopardy due to his broken foot. But time – and a rebuilding team – waits for no one.
This Sunday night's game will be the next best chance for linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Moise Fokou to seize control of an inside linebacker spot opposite Kavell Conner until Angerer returns. Mario Harvey also has a shot.
If one of them plays exceptionally well, who knows? Angerer took Gary Brackett's job when Brackett was injured and Brackett never got it back. Circumstances were different; Brackett is older. Still, the NFL is notorious as a league where out of sight, out of mind can be an issue.
“There are no backup players on the team,” Manusky said. “Any situation, you could be in the game, and that's how they've got to be.”
Colts defensive end Cory Redding was blunter. Asked about the loss of Angerer, he said the Colts immediately moved on.
“That's one of the things about this league that makes it so great is it's a brotherhood,” Redding said. “When one guy goes down, the next man steps up. And that next man has to treat his job like he's a starter. When he comes in, we shouldn't' miss a beat.”
Next up are Freeman, Fokou and Harvey. Manusky said Tuesday that Freeman was likely to enter the game (8 p.m. Sunday at Pittsburgh; NBC) as the starter. But Fokou stepped in and played a substantial amount in practice.
Freeman played the last three years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. At 26, he brings a mature body and an intensity informed by the hunger to succeed.
“It's still a learning process,” Freeman said. “That learning curve is not as steep as it was when I first got here. Still have some work to do, always have. Probably won't stop learning until I stop playing football.”
Fokou, acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, played in a 3-4 style of defense as a linebacker at the University of Maryland. He said he feels he has picked up things fairly quickly since joining the Colts.
Fokou says working with the first unit, whether he starts or not, is the most important part of the preseason. Until the first regular-season depth chart is released, several positions are open for competition.
“(Starting) helps in terms of facing another opponent's first team,” Fokou said, “(and) in terms of getting comfortable to the defense while playing at a high speed. At the end of the day, you've just got to keep grinding, keep working at it and see where the chips fall.”
Harvey, out of Marshall University, was signed as a free agent. He was in camp with the Steelers last year, but didn't make the roster.
“They've just got to play within the framework of the defense and play as one,” Manusky said. “Across the board, we have to try to do that, from defensive ends to tackles to outside linebacker to safeties. Constant communication is the most important thing.”
Manusky said he expects Angerer to play at a high level when he returns. Colts officials estimated it would be six weeks before Angerer's return, which would put them into the third game of the regular season.
“Throughout OTAs and mini-camp, he just worked his butt off,” Manusky said of Angerer. “He was just a great member of our team, and still is. It's hard to accept, but it's part of the NFL.
“He'll be all right. He'll come back from it. He's a hard worker and I'm looking forward to him coming back.”
Whether Angerer's job is still open when he returns is the next question. Freeman, Fokou and Harvey will provide the answer.