CHARLOTTE - Defensive tackle Colin Cole, who successfully returned from a two-year NFL hiatus to help the interior of Carolina's defense each of the past two seasons, has signed a one-year contract to remain with the Panthers.
Cole was set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins March 10.
"It's hard to get and maintain a job in this business. We're so happy to be a part of this organization and this community. It's a blessing," Cole said. "I'm the oldest player on this team, and I'm just happy to have the ability to continue my career. It's been a long road, but as long as they'll allow me to play, I'll continue to play."
Cole was a rookie in 2003 and will turn 35 this summer, but those numbers are a bit deceiving because he was out of the league in 2011 and 2012. The 330-pounder was a renown run stopper for the Green Bay Packers and then the Seattle Seahawks, but a significant ankle injury landed him out of the league before the Panthers gave him another chance two years ago.
Cole has since played in 31 games with 23 starts for one of the NFL's top defenses, totaling 45 tackles.
"I think people can make too much of age, but for me, having those two years off, that did allow my body a chance to completely re-heal without taking a beating. I feel good," said Cole, who did suffer a high ankle sprain in the Panthers' loss to Seattle in the NFC Divisional Playoff that he has been rehabbing. "I'm happy to have the opportunity to continue with this defense, especially considering how far we made it and how we played the defending Super Bowl champs all the way to the wire.
"This defense has the ability to raise the bar even more, especially with the young talent that stepped in last year and the group that I'm a part of up front."
Cole has been an invaluable part of a defensive tackle rotation that has included 2013 draft picks Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short as well as veteran Dwan Edwards, who could become an unrestricted free agent next week.
Last year, Carolina brought back both Cole and Edwards by signing them to one-year contracts after they became unrestricted free agents.