Colin Cole had been primarily a backup when he joined the Seahawks and became a two-year starter on Seattle's defensive line.
He was injured and out of football last season, another reminder of how quickly fortunes can change in the NFL.
Now, the 31-year-old defensive tackle says he is rehabbing the ankle injury that led to his release from the Seahawks in September, and hopes to play in 2012.
"I feel great, actually. It's a situation where there's still a little bit of the [rehab] process to still be had, but I definitely am happy about my progress up to this point," he told "The Kevin Calabro Show" last week, adding that he is "planning on coming back in hopefully 2012 [and] I'll be able to get back to form of what I was prior to my injury."
Cole injured his left ankle in Week 8 of the 2010 season and missed the next five games. His importance to the Seahawks' run defense -- along with that of Red Bryant, who was injured in the same game -- immediately became evident.
Offseason surgery on the ankle left Cole unable to participate in training camp. The expectation was that he would begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, making him ineligible for the first six games. Instead, the Seahawks released him when they trimmed their roster to 53 at the end of training camp.
Cole said he was "very upset" following his release, but added that he understood his fate was a common one for higher-paid veterans on teams with new regimes.
"I don't feel any ill-will about it," he said.
Cole said "a few" teams showed interest in him following his release, but he decided to take the season off and rehab his ankle. That decision was influenced by a provision in the new CBA that made the Seahawks partially responsible for the costs of his surgery and rehab as well as his salary, he said. Cole was scheduled to make $3.75 million in 2011. He said he had another surgery on the ankle, four in all.
Once his ankle is fully healthy, Cole said he's open to playing with any team, the Seahawks included. His ideal scenario would be playing nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme, a role similar to the one he had in 2010 with the Seahawks. He mentioned the Packers and Patriots as 3-4 teams that could be looking for help after finishing 32nd and 31st, respectively, in total defense last season. He noted his connection to new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who was an assistant at Cole's alma mater, Iowa, and with Green Bay, where Cole played before coming to Seattle.
Playing in a city like Miami would carry extra appeal.
"Not saying that I don't like Seattle because I do love Seattle. The fan base here is awesome on Sundays, but the rain kind of gets to me," he said. "Like I said, I'm from Florida so I would love to see some sun and enjoy maybe SoCal or Arizona if that opportunity came about. At this point, it's just testing every option and we'll see what happens."
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