Rosevelt Colvin, the Patriots' prize free agent pickup in the offseason, is going through his own unique setback.
In a year in which the team is 13-2, won the AFC East, and is jockeying for prime playoff position, Colvin's season ended after he fractured his left hip in Game 2 against Philadelphia while trying to scoop up a loose ball and run.
When one watches the play on video, there's no major collision, just an incredibly unlucky movement. If the linebacker had just fallen on the ball, he'd likely be preparing with the rest of his teammates for Saturday's game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. But players, especially those as athletic as Colvin, are taught to make a play. He only did what came instinctively, and he suffered a major injury as a result.
The severity of the injury never has been fully revealed. What is known is that three weeks ago, Colvin finally shed his crutches and is walking under his own power. He arrives at Gillette Stadium just about every day for three hours of rehabilitation. He's usually in therapy while his teammates are in meetings or at practice.
He'll occasionally jump into a linebackers meeting, say hello, and goof around with his teammates for a while.
He has watched two games from the sideline, including the Miami game, when he witnessed in amazement the fans' "snow show."
Many people wonder what the defense would have been like with a pass-rushing specialist like Colvin, who had 10 1/2 sacks with the Bears in 2001 and 2002. Would the closer games have been won by a larger margin? Would the 3-point loss to Washington been turned into a win by something Colvin might have done?
Maybe the defense, although well-respected, would have developed more of a name nationally had a flashy player like Colvin been on it.
We will never know. But Colvin has learned to put the what-ifs out of his mind.
"I've seen [the video] once, vaguely, and I don't really look at it," Colvin said from the locker room yesterday. "I say in the training room almost once a day that I should have just fallen on the ball. But you're just reacting in a situation like that. If I had to do it again, I'd have fallen on the ball . . . if I had known it was gonna happen, but you can't do anything about it."
Colvin has not been away from football since seventh grade, when he first put on a helmet and cleats.
"There's nothing I can really do about it," he said. "I'm not griping and I'm not upset. I just want to be out there and just want to be a part of it, physically, but I can't. I feel like I'm a part of the team, but it's difficult because I can't actually contribute physically. I'm just hanging out." His rehab has progressed slowly. He went from being bed-ridden to sitting up. He had to have assistance getting up and down and then walking a few steps. He eventually got to the point where he could sit up, then stand up with crutches.
Where is he right now?
"I can walk," he said. "I'm trying to do the basic functions of getting up in the morning, walking down stairs, walking up stairs, moving around without any assistance. I'm feeling pretty good. It wasn't necessarily learning to walk again, but making it more natural to walk again. That's after being laid up for a couple of months and then moving around with crutches."
As he stood near his locker he appeared a little uneasy. Once or twice he said, "You need to go talk to the guys that are playing. They're the real story." Yet Colvin should have been part of this story, just as Tony C. should have been more a part of the Impossible Dream team in '67 and Rice in the Series in '75.
Colvin has seen the vision that he and the rest of the players had for this team back in training camp come into focus. He was a part of that devastating 31-0 opening-day loss to the Bills and he was part, if only for a short while, of the team's rebound in a 31-10 win over the Eagles.
"I think we were confident then, but as the games roll on, we're gaining more and more confidence," he said. "I think we've understood that you can't go into a hostile environment, an opponent's field, and allow them to have any success because once you get the fans into it, it builds momentum for themselves. I think we got behind the 8-ball in the Buffalo game.
"Everybody has come together. They've had veterans stepping up, younger players playing well, and everybody knows what it is they have to get done on a weekly basis. You see it every day in the locker room, every day in practice. These guys love to play, that's why I wanted to be here. I'm sorry now that I can't be a part of it."
How many teams could lose a star on defense, and many other players, and still win so often?
"I think it's the schemes the coaches and [coordinator] Romeo Crennel come up with, and then it's the players," Colvin said. "When I came here, I was just trying to be a piece in the puzzle. They already had a great defense here. The same guys that were doing it in 2001, they're doing it now with the addition of a couple of free agents. Whether you're a lot better now or not, what's important is that you get the wins and you get enough wins to get there [Super Bowl] and win it."
Because the players and fans have made him feel he is a part of this amazing run, he feels the next move is up to him. He is intent on getting healthy and putting injuries behind him for good -- if that's possible.
While this does not appear to be a similar injury to the one that ended Bo Jackson's career, it is serious.
Colvin says he'll be back -- and that the team will want him back. "I would hope so," he said with a laugh. "They're that good, you know, but I think you always have room for a good guy. I think I'm a good guy, so hopefully they have room for me."
Now, only time will tell whether he'll ever be that good again.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.