At the beginning of the season Angelo Crowell appeared to drop a bombshell on his team choosing to undergo surgery on a troublesome knee that wasn't improving four days before the season opener. The team responded by placing the impact linebacker on injured reserve, in what seemed to be a contentious situation. Now almost four months later it appears there never was any resentment and Crowell is open to re-signing with the Bills as he enters free agency.
"Yeah definitely," said Crowell when asked if he'd entertain coming back. "That's what I talked to (Bills COO) Russ (Brandon) about. I love playing for this organization, the fans are great and they've supported me through this whole thing. I would definitely entertain it. Russ said the door wasn't closed, he just obviously wanted to see where I was in my rehab and what's next for me. He said he would definitely be talking to my agent and the door is definitely not closed."
Re-signing Crowell would certainly help a linebacking corps that could use another veteran performer, and the former third-round pick might be affordable after a year on injured reserve.
Crowell had been fighting a condition called chondromalacia for the better part of the last two years. Sometimes called runner's knee it's an irritation of the undersurface of the kneecap, which is covered by a smooth cartilage that normally glides across the kneecap when the knee is bent. But sometimes the kneecap can rub against the side of the knee joint irritating the cartilage and causing pain.
Through strengthening exercises and rehab he was able to successfully play through the condition in 2007 when he started all 16 games, but when the problem resurfaced this past offseason Crowell's rehab efforts to play through it again were unsuccessful.
"I just knew I couldn't go out there… playing (games) you can take some painkillers to help you through the pain, but practicing, you've got to get through the week and I practice the way I play," said Crowell. "I practice at the same speed I play the game. You've got to be able to do those things at this level to know that you can make the play and even have the confidence to even make the plays in the game. If you can't do that in practice you're wasting your time and fooling yourself."
Knowing he couldn't give his teammates his best Crowell decided initially to get a clean up type scope procedure done where he'd be out about a month or so, but after the team chose to put him on injured reserve he elected to do a more intensive scoping surgery.
"It was not a microfracture where they drill holes, but they just went in there and sanded it down to create that blood flow," said Crowell. "So it was more extensive than just a scope, which was originally going to put me out 4-6 weeks, but at the time I was put on
I-R Dr. Andrews' advice was this was the best thing for you at this point so that's what I decided to do. It's a three to four month rehab, but its going to give me more longevity in the league instead of a quick fix."
Crowell, who has been working with famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, is now ahead of schedule, but doesn't believe he could have played up to his standards at any point this season following the surgery.
What's most encouraging is the relationship between Crowell and the Bills organization is healthy and intact. Despite the rapid turn of events at the start of the season concerning his injury Bills COO Russ Brandon confirmed for Crowell that the decision to put him on injured reserve was done with good intentions.
"I don't harbor any ill feelings because he said at the time that it was a timing issue and he said he doesn't have any hard feelings either," said Crowell of his conversation with Brandon. "He knows I'm not a quitter. He knows the type of work that I put in and that I'm a blue collar worker. He feels good about me. That's the main thing I wanted to make sure is that me being put on I-R, what's the deal? It wasn't done out of anger or anything like that he said it was just a timing situation and they felt like they were doing what was best for my health interests."
Rehabbing all season in Florida, Crowell expects to be fully healthy and 100 percent in the near future. He realizes he'll likely have to prove to the Bills and other NFL clubs that he can still be an impact player. But he's confident he'll successfully resume his playing career in 2009.
"Once I'm healthy, like I said I'm ahead of schedule, there's no question in my mind that I can play this game," said Crowell. "I can play it at a high level. I'll put my game up against any linebacker in the league. I know that I can produce and there's film that shows that I can produce and the main thing teams want to see is when I'm healthy.
"I'm feeling good about where I'm at. The discomfort I felt at the beginning of the season, I'm not feeling right now so that picks me up. I'm positive with everything and I feel good and I'll definitely be on the field next year."