ANDERSON, Ind. — Jerrell Freeman wasn't eligible for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors last season, but he had as big an impact for the Indianapolis Colts as any newcomer in the league in 2012.
The fact it took the inside linebacker four years after leaving college to reach football's biggest stage only added to his surprising success.
Cut by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent following training camp in 2008, Freeman spent 2009-11 playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
Last January, he became general manager Ryan Grigson's first acquisition with the Colts. When Pat Angerer was injured during the preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams, Freeman moved into the starting lineup. And he was just getting started.
He scored Indianapolis' first touchdown of the season with an interception return against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears in his first NFL regular season game, and he set a franchise record with 145 tackles last season.
So it should come as no surprise Freeman — who is the only player ever from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to play in the NFL — wasn't about to let a shoulder injury slow him down this summer.
The linebacker missed the end of the second week of training camp and sat out Sunday's preseason loss against the Buffalo Bills. But he was back on the practice field Tuesday afternoon at Anderson University, and he said following Wednesday's morning walkthrough he has no limitations.
"It's kind of hard to hold me back," Freeman said. "Sometimes you have to save me from myself. Whenever I'm in there, I'm going 100 percent."
The Colts likely were saving Freeman from himself by holding him out against the Bills.
He's the only player who seems assured of a starting spot at one of Indianapolis' two inside linebacker positions. Angerer — who was activated from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday but is unlikely to make his preseason debut until at least Aug. 24 against the Cleveland Browns — figures to be in the mix at the other position. He's joined by a group including Kavell Conner, Kelvin Sheppard and possibly Josh McNary — if the former Army lieutenant can quickly return from a hamstring injury.