Colts’ Trent Cole to return Monday night after back surgery

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 29 : Trent Cole #58 of the Indianapolis Colts makes a sack on Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indianapolis defeated Tampa Bay 25-12. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It hasn’t been that long ago Trent Cole’s season, perhaps his career, was in jeopardy.

The veteran linebacker decided enough was enough, and determined surgery was required to address a lingering disc problem in his back. The Indianapolis Colts placed Cole on the injured reserve list Sept. 27.

After 12 seasons and 179 games, the career of a 34-year-old pass rusher seemingly was at a crossroads.

“They say that kind of injury is like season-ending from what I hear,’’ Cole said Thursday. “But that’s just not my mentality. My mentality is to get back as fast as I can and be smart about it and come back the safest way.’’

Cole has been on the practice field this week, ramping up his activity each day. The Colts designated him as a player to return from IR, and completed that process Thursday by activating him to the active roster. He’ll return to action Monday night against the New York Jets.

“I feel good. I feel really good,’’ Cole said Thursday. “Things are going well, rehabbing and getting my strength back together.

“I’m just making sure I’m ready to go. Keep taking it slowly and see if it all works out. There’s no confirmation, yet, that I know of.’’

That came later in the afternoon.

Defensive coordinator Ted Monachino hinted the decision to activate Cole was imminent asked if he believed Cole was making the type of progress that could lead to him returning to the lineup.

“Oh, I would certainly hope so,’’ he said. “He really worked hard to come back full strength. We didn’t have to ease Trent back into anything other than just getting his legs back under him from a football standpoint.

“But he looks really good in practice and we would expect him to be as healthy as possible come Monday. We’ve just got to continue to expose him to enough things that he feels confident going out there and playing in the game, but we’re certainly hopeful that can happen.’’

Cole’s accelerated return comes at an ideal time. The status of Robert Mathis for the Jets game is uncertain. He has yet to practice this week after suffering a biceps injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“At that position,’’ said Monachino, “if you’re going to pass the torch, that’s a good guy to pass it to if Trent can be healthy, especially not knowing the severity or the extent of Rob’s injury.’’

The Colts’ pass rush has been hit and miss all season. It has generated 22 sacks, which rank in the bottom third of the league. Erik Walden’s career-high 8 leads the team, followed by Mathis’ 3.

Cole was one of general manager Ryan Grigson’s significant free-agent signings during the 2015 offseason – a two-year, $14 million contract – but has yet to fulfill expectations. In 16 games with the Colts, he’s produced 3 sacks and 7 quarterback hits.

That from a guy who piled up 85.5 sacks in 10 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. His 88.5 career sacks are tied for 9th among active players and tied for 45th all-time.

Cole’s objective is to be what the Colts thought he was.

“I don’t want to come back in a state where I’m not going to impact the team,’’ he said. “I want to come back and be an impact with this team.

“This counts. This is big for us, everyone of these games.’’

While Cole’s eagerness to return is obvious, he made it clear the decision to have back surgery – a discectomy – was the result of taking a long-term view. For too long, he dealt with the pain, playing with it and through it.

“They cut me open and went in and (fixed it),’’ Cole said. “Now I’m feeling really good. I wish I had done this a long time ago. You get numb to the pain as a player. You get numb to stuff and you just don’t know it’s affecting you.

“I can tell you one thing: I’m a new person getting that nerve taking care.

“I could have still played, but it was smart to go and get the surgery. It could be career-ending. It could cause a lot of different things that I could lose. I wanted to be able to play with my kids. I want to be able to go hang out with my family and be outdoors.’’

Concussion(s) update: 

Quarterback Andrew Luck and safety Clayton Geathers, both of whom are in the NFL’s concussion protocol, went through another practice Thursday. The final step for each is being cleared by an independent neurologist.

Geathers insisted he’s feeling fine and said he expects to meet with the independent doctor Friday.

Coach Chuck Pagano is expected to address the status of each player during his Friday press conference.

Roster moves: 

To make room for Cole on the 53-player active roster, the team waived quarterback Stephen Morris. He’ll probably be re-signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

The move with Morris is yet another indication the Colts fully anticipate Luck being cleared by an independent neurologist and playing against the Jets.

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