Former Indianapolis Colt Pat Angerer: Football’s rewards are worth the risks

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DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball while defended by Pat Angerer #51 of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 28, 2016) – It hurts when Pat Angerer navigates a set of stairs, a painful reminder of microfracture knee surgery that essentially ended his career with the Indianapolis Colts after the 2013 season.

“My neck hurts. My back hurts,’’ he said Monday from his home in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Those undoubtedly are lasting remnants of the 56 NFL games he played and 377 tackles he delivered in four seasons with the Colts.

“If I don’t hurt,’’ Angerer said with a soft laugh, “I guess I didn’t try hard enough. I probably just feel like everybody else who’s done playing football.

“It’s part of it.’’

In the violent world of the NFL, Angerer, a 2010 second-round draft pick, always worked at the epicenter of the maelstrom. He was the Colts’ middle linebacker. When he wasn’t generating collisions, he was absorbing them.

Arguably the most worrisome aspect of Angerer’s NFL career is the unknown. He conceded he was diagnosed with “four or five documented concussions’’ during his playing days. On each occasion, he insisted, the Colts were proactive with their treatment.

“I was always taken out (of a game), even in high school,’’ Angerer said. “I always saw doctors. I always had brain scans. I was taken care of.’’

But might the repeated head trauma result in long-term damage?

Is there more to come?

“It’s kind of a hot topic right now, that’s for sure,’’ Angerer said.

Earlier this month, NFL senior vice president for Health and Safety Policy Jeff Miller appeared before a Congressional subcommittee dealing with concussions. He was asked if there was a connection between football-related brain trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) based on the research of neuropathologist Ann McKee.

“The answer to that question is certainly yes,’’ said Miller, adding “there’s also a number of questions that come with that.’’

Several owners, including Colts owner Jim Irsay, seemed to take issue with the stance of Miller, and by extension the NFL, during last week’s league meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.

“To try to tie football . . . to suicides or murders or what have you, I believe that is just so absurd as well as it is harmful to other diseases, harmful to things like . . . when you get into the use of steroids, when you get into substance abuse, you get into the illness of alcohol and addiction,’’ Irsay told Sports Business Daily.

“Look at it: when you get into Olympic bobsledding – I could sit down and name a dozen different sports – it has always been a known factor that you know you are going in there and you are taking a risk.

“Obviously we are not going to go to a situation where we put players in almost balloon-like equipment, where it becomes a pillow fight, so to speak. We are trying to look at everything about the safety of the game without changing the game.’’

Dallas owner Jerry Jones replied, ‘No, that’s absurd,’’ when asked by the Washington Post if there was a relationship between CTE and playing football. “There’s no data that in any way creates a knowledge.

“In most things, you have to back it up by studies. And in this particular case, we all know how medicine is. Medicine is evolving.’’

Irsay mentioned players always have been aware of the risks associated with football, “but the reward is something. It’s worth it.’’

Perhaps, but another player decided enough is enough. Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah announced his retirement Monday. On an Instagram post, he cited health as the primary deciding factor. He was diagnosed with five concussions during his seven-year career.

Angerer declined to take sides on the NFL/CTE debate.

“It’s just hard to know where to come down on the issue,’’ he said.

However, he made it clear today’s players are much more informed of the short- and long-term risks than “back in the day” when “there wasn’t as much coverage on (concussions). I don’t think they necessarily had that knowledge.

“Now, you know what you’re getting yourself into.’’

Angerer’s stance never has wavered. He always has played football – at Bettendorf H.S., the University of Iowa, with the Colts – with his eyes wide open.

“I knew going into it there was a 100 percent probability of being injured,’’ he said. “But yeah, I’d do it again, man.

“I think of everything I have and it’s because of football. It has opened so many opportunities in my life. I’ve done and seen some things some people can only dream of. The game has been very good to me.’’

As a second-round draft pick in 2010, Angerer signed a four-year, $3.14 million contract. He accepted the inherent risks that were magnified by reaching the highest level of the sport, including the head trauma.

“If you bang your head against someone else’s head, obviously that’s not good for you,’’ Angerer said. “As a player, you take that risk.

“My thing is there are probably a lot of people in America that are doing a lot worse things for a lot less money. If I’ve got to bang my head around to give my family a good life, then so be it.’’

Angerer recently landed a job in a bank in Bettendorf – “Never in a million years did I think I’d be a banker,’’ he said – and is spending as much time as possible with his two sons, 4-year-old Cael and 2-year-old Emmett.

Considering the swirling CTE controversy, will Angerer allow his sons to follow in his footsteps?

“Yeah, I’ll let them play,’’ he said. “They’ll go in there knowing the risks. And they’ll have the benefit of having my guidance. I’ve been through it and I can let them know what to expect.’’

All the while, Angerer will pay attention to the continued research on concussions and CTE.

“As far as football not being very good for your head,’’ he said, “that’s kind of obvious. Now to what extent, that’s what I think is unknown.

“We just don’t know enough about it.”