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He's no longer an outside LB

Colvin feels part of team this time

FOXBOROUGH -- He didn't want to be a distraction. Nor did he want any attention from the media. He didn't feel he deserved it, anyway. Especially not after he spent all but the first two games of his inaugural season with the Patriots on injured reserve because of a hip injury he suffered in a 31-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Sept. 14, 2003, at Lincoln Financial Field.

So Rosevelt Colvin declined all interview requests at last year's Super Bowl in Houston.

"I didn't want to be in the big spotlight," said Colvin, a sixth-year linebacker who was expected to upgrade New England's defense when the Patriots signed him March 11, 2003, as an expensive (seven years, $30 million) unrestricted free agent from Chicago. "Was I upset? Did it bother me that I didn't get the opportunity to play? Yeah, because I'm a competitor and I'm an athlete and they paid me to come here to play, and so I felt it was my duty to be out there on the field.

"Unfortunately, I had an injury, so I couldn't."

Which explained why Colvin felt compelled to remain in the shadows as the rest of the team basked in the Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers.

"It wasn't about me," he said. "It was about these guys who were going out on a weekly basis and winning games. For me to get in front of the TV cameras and talk and speak or have big articles [written] about me, I felt like that was wrong. I just wanted to sort of step back into the background and prepare myself for what I had ahead of me, which was trying to come back from the injury."

Colvin has since healed nicely from an injury that was once thought to be career threatening. And yesterday, Colvin was a willing participant in the Patriots' first day of practice for their Super Bowl appearance Feb. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla.

A swarm of media descended upon Gillette Stadium yesterday. This time, however, Colvin was happy to entertain their questions as he stood in front of his locker.

He talked about the uncertain status of Eagles All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens: "I mean, the guy's on the active roster and he's not on injured reserve, so you have to go out there and prepare for whoever they put out there."

He talked about the challenges the Patriots' defense faces against a mobile quarterback such as Donovan McNabb: "We've got to contain him. You can't let him run around back there or he'll beat you with his legs."

He talked about the ear-to-ear grin he wore following New England's 41-27 destruction of Pittsburgh in last Sunday's AFC Championship game at Heinz Field: "I think I had it on my face immediately after the game, all the way on the bus ride to the airport to the plane ride home."

But what Colvin seemed to relish discussing most was the precious opportunity he now had to play in a Super Bowl.

"I'm just tickled, man," he said. "Personally, from where I had to come from, for the team to come back and to do it again this year, it's truly a blessing."

Colvin, though, was feeling anything but blessed a year ago. He was barely a month removed from shedding the crutches he had depended upon following surgery on his left hip when the Patriots earned their second Super Bowl appearance in three years. More astonishing, New England did it without Colvin, the player many in the organization felt was the missing defensive ingredient of a team that failed to make the playoffs in 2002.

"I think I always tried to downplay that, because I was just trying to be part of the team," said Colvin, who returned this season to help the Patriots record 45 sacks, tying Richard Seymour for third on the team with five. "I wasn't coming to be the answer. I was coming to be a piece of the puzzle. I think that's what a lot of the guys in this locker room understand, and that's what makes this team so strong in everything we do. We understand it's a team philosophy. The ultimate goal is winning that one game you're involved in."

Still, it hurt Colvin not to be involved in the Super Bowl.

While the team practiced in Houston, Colvin said he put in time on the treadmill at the team's hotel. "I did have the opportunity to stand on the sideline for the game, so I had the opportunity to see everything that was going on," he said. "I was moving around well enough where I could get out of people's way."

Then, taking a jab at himself, Colvin added, "Older people were telling me to get out of the way because I was walking slower than they were. But to come from where I came from, I feel really fortunate."

Now he will have the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, against the Eagles, the team he suffered the injury against while trying to scoop up a McNabb fumble.

"It's just crazy," Colvin said. "Last year, my whole feeling was that it was bittersweet because I couldn't participate. Now that I've got the opportunity, like I said, I'm tickled to go back and this time get to play. And against the Eagles? I couldn't ask for more." 

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