TAMPA, Fla. — When he winced in pain on the Sun Life Stadium grass last September, with his future uncertain and the situation tense, Darrelle Revis prepared for the worst but hoped for a second life.
He allowed his mind to consider a dark thought: “I’ve played six years, and it could be gone that fast.” At the time, with pain surging from his left knee, Revis had little idea what to expect, his career in the balance.
Could this be it?
The possibility that his end could happen there, as he covered his face with green-and-white gloves under the South Florida sun, was enough to humble him. In time, Revis overheard a doctor tell New York Jets head trainer John Mellody, “It’s ACL.”
Revis cried, relieved.
“It’s humbling,” Revis said, when asked by FOX Sports Florida about a renewed appreciation in his comeback. “That’s how you’ve got to look at it — humbling that you get a second chance and get to play what you love to do.”
Revis’ appearance on the practice fields during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first day of training camp Thursday was a time for second chances. Ten months ago, the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback felt the fear of the unknown, the way a serious injury can strip away NFL life’s bravado and reveal raw vulnerability.
His workload was light, as planned. Revis participated in 11 periods of drill work, but the sight of him in a red No. 24 jersey sharing the same field with his new teammates, three months after his trade from a team he felt gave up on him, was a significant moment for him and his new franchise.
This early in Revis’ time with Tampa Bay, the experiment could go a number of directions. Success? Failure? Something between the extremes?
Choices will be made about how much work Revis will receive, each careful and calculated. For now, Bucs coach Greg Schiano says an approach will be reviewed each day. Action will be decided after talks between him and Revis, general manager Mark Dominik and director of sports medicine and performance Todd Toriscelli.
“This guy knows what he needs to do to get ready to play,” Schiano said. “We’ll just communicate. I think communication is more important than anything.”
Part of the challenge in the dialogue to come, however, will be pacing Revis as the hours become more urgent. His appearance Thursday was a positive step, after he spent OTAs doing rehab work to the side of drills. It remains to be seen how extensive his workload at training camp will be. It remains to be learned how Bucs coaches and health staff will balance the need to prepare yet preserve their star.
An example of Tampa Bay’s care: Revis slipped off his practice jersey and started rehab work on a distant field less than two hours into the 165-minute session. He jogged and walked on his own, action elsewhere carrying on. Eyes will stay fixed on him in the coming days, until an intriguing matchup against the Jets in Week 1.
Still, there were signs that this day was different, that it was meaningful to Revis as he began his second chance. He had trouble sleeping Wednesday night because he was eager. He arrived at One Buc Place and shot Toriscelli a look as if to say, “I’m ready to practice today.” Toriscelli responded with a glance that, to Revis, meant, “All right. Hold back now. Relax.”
Even younger players, like third-year safety Ahmad Black, referred to the veteran as “Grandpa,” a sign that they respect and admire Revis’ history.
“It’s like a dream,” rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks said of practicing with Revis. “I’m in college watching Revis, and this guy is the best at what he does, and now I’m on the same field with him like, ‘Wow, that’s Revis.’ You kind of get in a daze, and coach has got to call your name two or three times.”
This new start gives Revis a chance to mark his own progress from the player Banks once watched. He admitted gaining maturity from his early Jets years. Growth is a learning process, he knows, a valuable one.
Now, Revis is more patient. There remains an inner-drive that says, “Go, go, go,” a spark that made “Revis Island” feared throughout the NFL. But he understands the value in waiting to do what is best for his present and, more importantly, his future as he transitions into his career’s new phase.
A rookie-like love is still there. A hunger to compete remains strong. But as time has placed distance between Revis, the 14th overall pick, and Revis, the veteran, he has earned this perspective: He knows there is purpose in a deliberate approach, in care.
“Being around other veterans, (I) just learned to be patient, because I love to play the game, I love to compete,” Revis said. “But I’ve got to take a step back and also listen to Coach and listen to Todd, our head trainer.”
Soon Revis walked from the podium and headed toward a back room to continue his comeback. Inside, the Bucs’ work to remake themselves within the unforgiving NFC South carried on, the season less than seven weeks away.
Earlier in the day, Revis woke with renewed life, a chance that brought tears to his eyes after an event that placed his future in doubt. There is plenty of distance left to travel, but he stood a long way from that patch of grass at Sun Life Stadium, humbled.