CHICAGO – New England Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin always will have a niche in Bears and NFL lore as the guy who took Brian Urlacher’s job away from him.

It was 2000 and Dick Jauron’s staff had given Urlacher the starting strong-side linebacker job on draft day. Trouble was, that job belonged to Colvin, who had spent his rookie season learning the hybrid position after a standout career as a rush end at Purdue.

Midway through the preseason, Urlacher was struggling and Colvin, whom Hall of Famer Dan Hampton called the best pure pass rusher the Bears had at the time, reclaimed his spot.

Urlacher, who ultimately was expected to become the Bears’ middle linebacker, was benched until Barry Minter was injured in Game 2.

Colvin, Urlacher and Warrick Holdman then evolved into one of the league’s elite linebacker groups. Years later, the tension the initial move created between Colvin and Urlacher has been forgotten.

“Before I left (the Bears, as a free agent), I used to always say he (Urlacher) would never be who he is if it wasn’t for me,” Colvin said. “(But) he would have been in there someday. The skill sets and his ability as a playmaker make him who he is.”

Urlacher said it will be good to see Colvin – a friend and someone who had a hand in redirecting his career.

“He’s one of the main reasons I went to (middle linebacker) as early as I did,” Urlacher said. “I’m pretty excited about watching him play in person.”

Colvin left for New England in 2003, accepting a $30 million deal that priced him out of the Bears’ plans.

He had developed into an NFL rarity: a strong-side linebacker who played every down. Colvin had moved in at defensive end for the Bears in nickel situations and collected 101/2 sacks in 2001 and again in 2002.

After Colvin left and Lance Briggs succeeded him, the Bears’ defense got “a lot quieter,” Urlacher said, laughing. “Rosie is a vocal guy, likes to chatter. At the beginning, Lance was quieter because he didn’t know what he was doing. Rosie was always in my ear, “Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do?”‘

Colvin started his first two games for the Patriots, recording a sack in each. But then he suffered a career-threatening hip injury that sent him to injured reserve for the rest of that season, and caused him to research alternative careers just in case.

Colvin purchased a United Parcel Service franchise and last off-season opened his second one.

After receiving a Super Bowl ring his first season with New England, he came back from the injury in 2004 to play in all 16 games. He totaled five sacks and the Patriots repeated as Super Bowl champions. Last season he started 11 games and led the Patriots with seven sacks.

This season, after veteran Willie McGinest departed through free agency, the 29-year-old has started nine of New England’s 10 games and has 31/2 sacks in a linebacker-rush end role similar to the one he created in Chicago.

“For a guy with the skills set I have, the 3-4 defense fits well,” he said. “I think of myself as a standup defensive end because I developed those traits in college, the joy of rushing the passer. To be able to add a dimension to my game, to be able to drop in coverage and cover a tight end or a back was something that gave me the ability to play linebacker.

“That’s something that I had to learn when I got to Chicago because I’d always been going forward. When they wanted me to play linebacker, I had to learn when to go forward and when to go backward. With a little help from Dale Lindsey, the linebackers coach then, the transition became easier and here I am.”

(c) 2006, Chicago Tribune.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-11-22-06 1852EST

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