Last year at this time and the year before that Panthers defensive tackle Colin Cole was among the millions of viewers watching NFL games Sundays and occasionally swearing at what he saw.
While fans often bemoan their teams performance, Coles pain was more personal: He believed he should still be playing the game, not watching it.
Some Sundays itd be frustrating, Cole said. Id watch and thered be days Id get into it, and thered be days Id cuss at the TV and walk away. Its frustrating.
After being out of football for two years, Cole is expected to make his second consecutive start Sunday at Arizona in place of the injured Dwan Edwards. Cole, an eight-year veteran, is relishing his second chance.
With Edwards dealing with a hamstring injury, Cole started against the Giants and played 17 snaps. He was credited no tackles, but had a pressure on Eli Manning.
Every rep that I get is a great opportunity. The last two years I was sitting at home right now. I have the opportunity to be out on the field, Cole said Thursday. And every chance on the practice field, in the weight room, in the classroom and obviously on game day, every chance I get to step on the field, Im just ecstatic that I have the opportunity.
I have a different perspective than most guys. And Im going to take full advantage as much as I can.
Cole, 33, was a two-year starter for the Seahawks before sustaining a serious ankle injury that required four surgeries. Seattle released him in their final roster cuts in 2011, and he spent the next two seasons looking for work.
He moved from Seattle to the Charlotte area in August last year to be closer to his wifes family in Aiken, S.C.
I dont know if youve ever been to Seattle, but for a good nine months out of the year its doom and gloom, said Cole, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. And I just couldnt deal with it anymore.
Cole subscribed to the NFL Sunday Ticket, and usually would tune into games involving the Panthers or any teams that had shown interest in him.
Id watch them and see how they were doing and how their defensive fronts were looking, Cole said. Just kind of doing some scouting.
This past spring Cole cold-called the Panthers, who were familiar with him and happened to be looking for a nose tackle. They signed him to a 1-year deal worth the veteran minimum $905,000, and he made the roster as part of the defensive tackle rotation with Edwards and rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.
Hes done a nice job since hes gotten here. Hes very professional with his approach to preparation, and it helps the young guys, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. Hes a stabilizing force for the two young guys when theyre in there with him. At the same time when theyre both out there by themselves, hes always got an arm around those guys in some way or another. Hes done a great job as far as being a veteran leader for those young guys when hes out on the field with them.
Cole said recently he believes a coaching change in Seattle, where Pete Carroll replaced Jim Mora Jr., also led to his release.
Rivera said hes happy to see Cole taking advantage of his chance.
One thing that you dont ever want to have to do is leave on somebody elses terms. This is an opportunity for him to come back and get back in the mix of things and hes done a great job, Rivera said. I dont want to use the word rebirth I think its overused but just a second opportunity. Hes taken advantage of it and hes done a nice job with it.
Cole, 6-2 and 335 pounds, has three tackles and two pressures in three games. Hes not sure how many snaps hell get against the Cardinals, but he plans to make the most of them.
Im going to practice and prepare to play the entire game and whatever happens, happens, Cole said. Im just happy to be getting the opportunity to play. Im going to try to take advantage of every rep that I get.
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