INDIANAPOLIS — Rugged. Tough. Hard. Fast. Warrior.
These are all descriptions of Indianapolis Colts veteran outside linebacker Trent Cole, who made his return to the lineup Monday night after undergoing surgery to repair a nerve issue in his back just two months ago after the team's Week 3 matchup against the San Diego Chargers.
Cole was active on Monday against the New York Jets, getting the start at RUSH linebacker in place of an injured Robert Mathis and, in 24 total defensive snaps, recording two tackles and a pass defensed.
"It was great, I was really excited, throughout the week I was trying to keep myself (calm)," Cole said. "The players can relate, you just try to keep calm and not get too excited and go out there and do what you are supposed to do and make sure that you get everything right and that you aren't the weakest link out here. It was just very exciting to be out there with my team and being a part of it."
Oftentimes when Cole didn't make the tackle on Monday, he was certainly around the ballcarrier or the quarterback, or setting the edge to get the runner back inside between the tackles.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was impressed not only by how quickly the 12th-year veteran was able to return from a potentially serious surgical procedure, but how he was able to make am impact in his first game back.
"It's great to have him back," Pagano said. "You can feel his presence out there. Rehabbed his tail off. Docs and trainers did a great job with him. The good Lord just gave him something that a lot of us don't have. I don't know what's in his DNA but he gave him something special.
"He played good," Pagano said. "Rugged, tough, hard, fast."
Cole also played a key role in a Colts (6-6) defense that simply shut down the Jets offense, limiting New York to a 3-of-11 success rate on third downs, and allowing just 36 net yards, the lowest rushing total for an opponent this season, and the lowest allowed by the Colts since Nov. 8, 2015, against the Denver Broncos (35 yards).
The Indy defense also held an opponent to less than 20 points for the first time all season — despite the absence of starters Mathis (bicep), safety Clayton Geathers (concussion/neck) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (groin) — which is a very promising sign for a team trying to make a postseason run with a strong December.
"We just have to execute, we have to beat the man across from us and that is most important," Cole said. "Make sure that we execute all of our plays and most importantly beat the man across from you. There is a lot on the line here and I think everybody is focused and knows what we have to do here."
Those both on the field and watching from above were impressed with Cole's return on Monday. And they hope he can continue to play a big part for what they hope is a big run here over the next few weeks.
"Trent is a guy that just came off back surgery, and as you see (Monday), he's out there playing a significant number of snaps, batting down balls, getting pressure, setting edges, coming fresh off a back surgery," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "So he's as great a warrior as I've ever been around, in terms of just true toughness. The fact he played with what he was playing with before the surgery is incredible in and of itself. So I obviously have a great appreciation for a guy that (is) that dedicated, and again, I think he'll only get better with each game."