Colvin story is playing out
Extended outing latest part of comeback try
FOXBOROUGH -- A broken hip can do a lot of things to a professional football player, a lot of nasty, horrible things. It can terminate a career. It can act as a sobering reminder that even men built like Greek gods are just as mortal as the next. It can turn endless potential into: what if? But after a year of dealing with such thoughts, Rosevelt Colvin has learned there's one thing it can't do. Not to him, anyway.
"As far as my mind, how I approach the game, I'm the same person," Colvin said.
He found that out Saturday night, when he played football for longer than he had in nearly a year. As for the physical side, Colvin is still not the explosive outside linebacker he became with the Chicago Bears, the one who landed a monster free agent contract and pumped excitement into Patriot Nation. Of course, that excitement never materialized fully, as Colvin injured his hip in the second game of the season.
But Saturday night, Colvin made a large step in bringing back the fervor with which he stalked opposing quarterbacks in Chicago. After stepping on the field for a single play in the Patriots' exhibition debut against Philadelphia, Colvin received extended playing time in New England's 31-3 loss in Cincinnati. He played nearly three quarters, recording three tackles, two solo, and he shared a sack with Jarvis Green.
It was the most Colvin had played since September last season, when he started New England's first two games of the season. In the second game, he broke his left hip and was placed on injured reserve. Still, the increase in playing time didn't affect Colvin.
"I felt like I would have felt any other game," he said. "I was hitting people, banging around. I felt like I played a football game.
"Did I feel any sorer now than I did a year ago? No. I feel the same now as I did when I played the Bills and Eagles [last year]. I'm trying to get better. Hopefully, the soreness will be less and less each week. If not, then I'll have to get used to it."
The sobering injury and year off hasn't stopped Colvin from being an NFL-caliber outside linebacker. He held his own against the Bengals, and he did so for an extended period.
He first trotted onto the field with the second-string defense on the third possession of the game. In the second half, coach Bill Belichick reinserted his starters, but Colvin played in place of Willie McGinest, and remained on defense until 8:07 in the fourth quarter.
"It was a so-so game," Colvin said. "I felt a little rusty. I haven't played in a whole year, so the whole aspect of being out there was pretty much new. Game situation is a little bit different than practice. Reaction times were kind of bad. It's going to come, though."
After the play that broke the ice against the Eagles, the ample action Colvin saw Saturday night encouraged the Patriots. Belichick hopes to give Colvin another large chunk of playing time when the Patriots are at Carolina Saturday night.
"It was another step in his process of coming back and playing," Belichick said. "I don't think you can climb the Empire State building in one jump. You're going one step of the way, and there are a lot of steps to climb. He is climbing them and [the Bengals game] is another one, so I think there were some good things there. His recovery has gone well. It is headed in the right direction."
Reading formations and positioning himself correctly for pass coverage came back to Colvin easily. The mental part of the game never escaped him. But the quick reaction, the explosiveness he made his trademark in Chicago, will take a little more time.
Still, his performance satisfied the person who matters most.
"I think it was positive," Belichick said. "There were certainly a lot more positive things than negative. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it was perfect. There are things he has to work on. But, that being said, I thought that he did some things well."
Perhaps Colvin's return has been such a success so far thanks to his level-headed outlook. Colvin speaks as if the injury is just an obstacle he must confront. He has taken a workmanlike approach to rehabbing.
"It could take me 10 games to get comfortable," Colvin said. "If it does, that's what I'll have to deal with. I'm coming back from a physical ailment. I have to overcome that."
Mentally, Colvin seems to have it down, mostly because he never let the situation with his hip creep into his head. Now he can concentrate on the next-most-important aspect.
"It's the second nature of being a football player," Colvin said. "The second nature of reading blocks, the second nature of reading formations. I just have to get to be a football player again. I took a year off. So I'd be happy and amazed if I could go get back out there and perform exactly at the same level that I was performing at. But if I'm not, then I've got something to shoot for."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.