Colombo returns in a big way

NASHVILLE _ Marc Colombo was supposed to have a very small role in his return from two knee surgeries Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. <P> The role was small, but the impact was huge.

"It felt good to help the team out," the 2002 first-round draft pick said. "I was just glad I could do it in my first game back."

Playing only on kick blocking teams, the 6-foo-8, 325-pound tackle saved the game and the Bears went on to a 19-17 overtime win. Colombo deflected Craig Hentrich's last-second 52-yard field goal try in regulation and it bounced harmlessly downfield as the seconds ticked off the clock. From there, the Bears won the game on an overtime safety.

"Think about a guy that rehabs for two years of never missing a day and just every day, over and over, tries to get back to get a chance," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "I was excited as he was for him to get to dress."

Last February at the NFL combine, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said Colombo's career might be over due to the severe left knee injury suffered Nov. 18, 2002 against the St. Louis Rams. He had rehabbed it after two surgeries, but couldn't gain enough strength in it to get it into playing shape.

Then, gradually, it started to improve in the summer and Colombo got activated from the physically unable to perform list this week to finish the season on the active roster.

"You are supposed to have a happy ending when a guy goes through what he has gone through," Smith said. "It's good to make a big play like that at the end."

Hentrich had kicked a low, 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half that would have been through the uprights but went wide right. On this kick, he appeared to get it off cleanly, and not low.

"(Brian) Urlacher helped me get into the backfield and I got my arm up and got the ball," Colombo said.

How did Urlacher, who lined up in the defensive backfield, help Colombo?

"He gave me a push," Colombo said.

It wasn't Colombo's first blocked field goal in the NFL. He blocked one by Green Bay's Ryan Longwell in a 2002 Monday night game, too.

"I've been saying all week I wanted to get a field goal block," Colombo said. "That was my goal this week. It just was an opportune time to do it and I just went up there and got it done."

Colombo's next step is to get back the starting spot he had in 2002 before his injury. Qasim Mitchell is still playing there.

"I feel like I'm ready now," Colombo said. "It's just a matter of going out there and keep getting better and when the coaches feel like I'm ready, it's their decision."

Watching from the sidelines isn't about to bother Colombo after what he's been through for two years. He said he never thought about quitting, even when reports were negative.

"Of course, I was wondering mostly why it was taking so long," he said. "I never thought I would be that long. That's the way it goes.

"I had a knee injury. You never can tell with the knee, especially early on. The injury was a year-and-a-half injury and this was a little longer. All you can do is keep working and hope the best."

The best came Sunday, with two seconds left on the clock in regulation.

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