OT Colon happy to be back at work for Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin turned toward practice
field No. 2 at Saint Vincent College just before 5 p.m. on Thursday
and yelled ”suit’em up!”
And just like that, offensive tackle Willie Colon went back to
While fellow lineman Doug Legursky sprinted to grab his helmet
and shoulder pads – singing Aerosmith’s ”Back in the Saddle” as
he did it – Colon took his time. He ran his hand through his braids
and slowly made his way to his spot in the stretching line with the
rest of his teammates.
The 28-year-old Colon and other free agents across the league
were finally allowed to practice Thursday when the NFL lockout
officially ended after the NFL Players Association ratified the new
collective bargaining agreement with owners, ending 4 1/2 months of
posturing, negotiating and uncertainty.
Colon’s wait was longer. Much longer. He hadn’t hit someone in
more than 13 months and wondered if he’d ever be the same after
tearing the Achilles’ tendon in his right leg in June 2010.
His journey back to the field has been arduous at best and
frustrating at worst. It’s why he didn’t race over to the rest of
his teammates. He wanted 30 seconds to appreciate the start of the
rest of his football life.
”I’ve been ready for this,” Colon said. ”I know how hard I
Even if Colon wasn’t exactly thrilled with the
As anxious as he was to start earning the five-year, $29-million
deal he signed last week, he wasn’t so eager that he was going to
rubber-stamp the CBA. Colon voted against ratifying the new
He was joined by several other members of the defending AFC
champions who were concerned about the way the negotiations were
handled and the autonomy NFL commissioner Roger Goodell maintained
when it came to doling out player discipline.
”We felt like it was getting shoved down our throats,” Colon
said. ”Our player (representative) wasn’t comfortable with it.
We’re a strong locker room. We’ve been through too much. We’re not
going to just file it away the way other teams do. We do what we
want, we make our own rooms and we said `no.”’
Pittsburgh player rep Ryan Clark declined to confirm whether the
team voted as a whole against the new CBA, as did quarterback
Charlie Batch, a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee.
Still, Clark acknowledged the team had issues with Goodell’s
ability to serve as judge and jury when it came to handing out
punishment for illegal hits. The Steelers were a favorite target
last season, with linebacker James Harrison fined four times by the
league for illegal contact.
”Everybody makes a big deal like we’re always whining and
crying, but we’re most effected,” Clark said. ”It’s the way we
play football. It’s the style of play. We want to play physical and
it does affect you in some type of way.”
There were some givebacks by the league this week. Under the new
CBA, the NFLPA must be consulted before a player is suspended or
fined more than $50,000. And players now will be able to argue on
appeal that a fine is excessive if it exceeds 25 percent of one
week’s pay for a first offense or 50 percent of a week’s pay for a
”Hopefully guys won’t have to worry about so much money getting
taken out of their pockets,” Clark said.
As an offensive lineman, Colon will most likely avoid the
commissioner’s wrath, which is fine by him. After spending so much
time watching instead of playing, he’s ready to deliver some of his
He joked he would ”spare the rod for no one” during his first
practice. He wasted little time mixing it up with the second-team
defensive line and says his right leg felt fine.
”I really didn’t feel like I’m missing a step,” he said.
”I’ve got to fine tune some stuff and be ready to go.”
If Pittsburgh is going return to the Super Bowl, he doesn’t
really have a choice. The offensive line is already without
veterans Max Starks and Flozell Adams, released in cost-cutting
moves last week.
That leaves Colon and Chris Kemoeatu as the longest-tenured
lineman. Kemoeatu is nursing fluid on his right knee and is on the
physically unable to perform list, leaving it up to Colon to give
some stability to a line in flux.
It’s a role he’s embraced. He believes he’s a better student of
the game now after offensive line coach Sean Kruger made him put
together a scouting report each week last year in hopes of keeping
Still, he just laughed when asked if this means he’s ready to
get into coaching.
”My job right now is to be the best right tackle in the
league,” Colon said. ”That means executing, playing hard and
being able to rock and roll when the time comes … My focus is on
right tackle. I don’t want to put nothing on a chalkboard.
Follow AP Sports Writer Will Graves on twitter at
twitter.com/WillGravesAP. AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich
contributed to this report.