IRVING There's an interesting sub-plot to follow when the Cowboys face the Bears on Monday night. It's the reunion with Jay Ratliff (well, 'Jeremiah' Ratliff, as wants now to be called).

After a messy divorce from Dallas one that could eventually involve legal action Ratliff plays for the Bears now, and he's motivated.

'Jay was a big contributor to our team for a number of years, and we have a great deal of respect for him as a player, but we're getting ready to play the Bears,' said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys terminated Ratliff's contract seven weeks ago. They thought he was done playing for the year.

Now Ratliff's saying this about facing his former team: 'It's just another game. It's just football. I don't get caught up in all that silly rivalry stuff.'

While Ratliff may try to publicly downplay his feelings about Monday night's game, those who have been around him for any amount of time know come kickoff, that probably won't be the case.

Ratliff is as emotional a player as you'll ever find, and his former teammates expect to see some of that fire come out in the Windy City.

'You know, playing against your old team.... if I leave, I'm going to come back and try to beat the crap out of them,' said former fellow defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. 'So it's not just another football game. He's going to be up for it.'

'I'm sure he'll be a little fired up and have a little something to prove, but I mean, that's the norm,' added Cowboys defensive back Orlando Scandrick.

The ironic twist in Ratliff's departure: If he would have played as expected, Hatcher would not be having arguably the best season of any Cowboys defender. Hatcher plays the defensive line position known as the 'three technique.' That would have been Ratliff's position, and Hatcher would have played more nose tackle.

Hatcher says his production from the nose tackle spot would have been horrible.

'I'm not a nose tackle,' Hatcher said. 'I probably would have been asked to be traded or something, because I don't like to play the nose. I'm not going to say I'm glad Rat's gone, because I wish we had him, because he's a hell of a football player.'

And Ratliff will be out to prove he still is on Monday night.


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