INDIANAPOLIS — Trent Cole was so excited at the prospects of playing his first game since Week 3 last week that even head coach Chuck Pagano said he had to calm down his veteran outside linebacker just a tad in practice.
Make no bones about it: after undergoing surgery to repair a nerve issue in his back a mere two months ago and being placed on Injured Reserve, Cole is ready to get back on the field after the team activated him on Thursday.
With the Colts traveling to take on the New York Jets tonight on Monday Night Football, the 12th-year veteran says he'll be good to go if Pagano decides to activate him for this primetime game.
"I was excited before I even went out there," Cole said of returning to the practice field last week. "I was excited weeks before there was even a thought about it, you know what I'm saying? Weeks before there was even a thought about it I was feeling that good."
The timing of Cole's potential return tonight is key, considering the team will be without fellow veteran outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who injured his bicep in the team's Thanksgiving Night matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With Mathis out tonight, the team will continue to lead on Erik Walden, who has collected a career-best eight sacks so far this season, as well as Akeem Ayers, who has 14 tackles and two sacks in 11 games for the Colts in 2016.
But the wildcard could be Cole, who hopes to get on the field for the first time since the Colts' Week 3 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
"He looks really good in practice and we would expect him to be as healthy as possible come Monday," Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said. "I think that we just have to continue to expose him to enough things that he feels confident going out there and playing in the game. We're certainly hopeful that that can happen."
Cole said his back surgery has made him feel like a "new person," which is really saying something for a guy with 88.5 career sacks and 21 forced fumbles to his name. But after having on-and-off excruciating pain in back for about a year, Cole had finally had enough, and elected to have surgery to repair a nerve in his back.
"One day I'd be feeling good, and it'd change and it was the worst of the worst," said Cole, who added he now wishes he would've gotten the procedure done last year. "Then all of a sudden I'd be feeling good the next three days. It was wishy-washy, so you really couldn't put a beat on it.
"Your body's like your temple, and a lot of things come from just the nerves from the spinal cord (and it) controls a lot. So it was a big risk that I was taking to keep playing."
Cole credited his surgeon, as well as the team doctors and training staff with giving him every bit of care that he needed to make a return this season, just two months after undergoing the procedure.
He also said his friends and family — especially his wife, Paige — gave him the support system he needed to keep chugging along through the recovery process.
"Being placed on IR for return (list), you never know what can happen," Cole said. "All you can do is hit the road of recovery and hit it hard and see what happens. You never know what can happen. You've got to try, and I'm very mentally strong, and that's one of the reasons — and just having the support from my friends and family, and especially my wife — that's the reason why there's a chance for me to come back."