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Injured Colon healing more quickly than Steelers expected

Steelers right tackle Willie Colon, considered the team's best offensive lineman, is mending so rapidly after injuring his Achilles tendon in June that he could have returned later this season.

But Colon was placed on injured reserve when he got hurt four months ago and, by rule, can't play until next year.

When defensive end Aaron Smith suffered a partially torn tricep muscle this past Sunday, the Steelers opted not t place him on injured reserve in hopes he could return this season.

But Colon's case was more severe.

"When you get hurt, you don't know how to respond to it," said Colon, who resumed running this week. "But after doing some of the things and feeling good about it, the thought comes, 'maybe I could have come back this year.' I think now I could have been back before the playoffs. I feel that way."

Colon said the realization he could have possibly played this season is deflating. He had started 54 consecutive games (including the playoffs) and never missed a game because of injury.

"My (teammates) made the comment they're kind of mad they put me on injured reserve after watching me do the shuttle runs," said Colon, who completed six shuttle runs and 10 figure-8's without complications for the first time at Wednesday's practice.

The recovery period for an Achilles tendon injury is normally nine-to-12 months.

"I was surprised when I woke up (Thursday) morning," Colon said. "I thought I was going to be aching. It felt good."

Colon has remained close to the team during his rehabilitation. Players with season-ending injuries don't normally travel with the team, but Colon hasn't missed a game this season and will attend Sunday night's matchup in New Orleans.

"Part of my rehabilitation is being around the guys mentally," Colon said. "It's easy to get lost when you come in rehabbing, and you're out the door. I go to meetings every morning. I go through the game plan with the guys. We hang out together. That keeps me mentally grounded.

"Coach (Mike) Tomlin has been really supportive of letting me be around the guys. It's great to be wanted."

Still, there are times when Colon feels like an outsider. Not only is he unable to contribute on the field, he knows he may not be with the Steelers next season.

Colon signed a $2.5 million restricted free agent tender. If a new collective bargaining agreement isn't in place by March 1, Colon will be a restricted free agent again in 2011.

Veteran Flozell Adams, who signed a two-year deal before the season, has replaced Colon at right tackle.

"I consider these guys family, and I want to be back with my family," Colon said. "But you've got to wait and see. The Steelers operate in a different fashion. They deal with you when they're ready to deal with you. When they're ready to talk, they'll talk. Until then, you've got to sit in the waiting room with everybody else.

"It's about being patient. If I'm not here, wherever I'm at, the big picture is being back 100 percent and being able to do the things I was able to do when I was healthy."

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