It's a terrible feeling. The jolts of pain you feel as a part of you is snapping, tearing or in some way rendering all your training, all your hopes of a great season, all your dreams of personal accomplishment null and void in a split second. And then the realization sinks in. I'm done for the year. Game over.
Willie Colon had to be feeling that this past week when he felt the searing pain of his Achilles' tendon rolling up his leg. I saw Mark Behning, a former Steelers offensive tackle, snap one in a game. He looked like a sniper had shot him, he dropped so fast. Other players who snapped their Achilles told me that it felt like somebody had snuck up and hit them in the back of their leg with a baseball bat.
What makes it even worse is that Willie didn't even get into camp. At least on a personal level, he would have felt some sense of being a part of the team. As it stands, he will just be a spectator, for an entire year no less. Lacking that connection, it stands to be a very long year for Willie.
Time waits for no man in the NFL. If you're not holding down a job, you have no job. All the work that poured out of you to climb the mountain from first making the team, then to starter, seems to be for nothing. Willie will spend the year watching as somebody else gets an opportunity to claim what has been his for three years. Whoever moves into that job will do so with the intention of holding onto it. That player will not view it as keeping the right tackle spot warm until Willie returns.
Missing one year sets you back two. Stepping into a starting role takes time to learn. Just ask Will Gay about the difference between starting and filling in. Each year as a "1-through-16" starter sharpens your skill, game brain and instincts. Learning to balance your life on and off the field makes for a productive player long term. And the shame of it is, Willie -- despite what plenty of critics are saying -- was primed to move his game higher, in my most humble opinion.
I've watched this "315 pounds of educated Big Nasty" from Hofstra struggle with his run blocking, pass pro, his game sense, his anger management. I've talked to him when he had his periods of doubt, of self-confidence, which 99% of all young bucks go through. He'd tighten his jaw line so much that he struggled for words. It's not an easy life, to fight your way to the top and then stay there.
Through it all, Willie has consistently impressed me with his work ethic, his desire, and his gameness. When the heat was on, Willie never shied from stepping up. The media can be rough, and guys can disappear when things get dicey, but I always respected Willie for standing tall.
He earned that right with hard work. I've seen his run blocking get better despite having different wingmen lining up beside him. While his pass blocking at times has struggled, show me an offensive lineman that hasn't had such times. Slowly, Willie has elevated his game over the last three years to where I truly felt that he was getting close to prime time.
But that's not the worst. The hardest part to handle is knowing that every Sunday for the next seven months will leave him with an empty feeling, that the internal game clock every player has will still be going off, unaware of the year's vacation. It'll still clang loudly when he sees his teammates taking the field.
Willie either will stand uncomfortably on the sidelines or settle back into an easy chair at home, all the while battling rigidly with every impulse to grab a helmet and go. He'll have to continually frustrate himself with the inevitability of squashing the "road rage with no release" that a Sunday without football brings.
Losing Willie Colon for the year is not "addition by subtraction" as the Willie knockers are saying. "Willie's Achilles" could well be the Achilles Heel of the Steelers offensive line this year.