The New York Jets will face the Pittsburgh Steelers’ speedy receivers without Darrelle Revis.
The All-Pro cornerback was ruled out Friday for the team’s game at Pittsburgh on Sunday with a concussion that left Revis ”in a fog” after the injury occurred in the season opener against Buffalo.
Coach Rex Ryan said Revis was cleared for non-contact practice for the first time Friday, but will not travel to Pittsburgh with the team Saturday.
”We followed NFL protocol this week,” Ryan said, ”and we’ll always follow NFL protocol when it comes to concussions, but Darrelle is ruled out for the game.”
Revis needed to be cleared by the team physician and an independent neurological consultant in order to first practice and then play. He was injured when he made a diving tackle attempt on C.J. Spiller and teammate Bart Scott accidentally kicked him in the head.
The Jets will also be without tight end Dustin Keller and linebacker Bryan Thomas, both with hamstring issues. To make up for the loss of Keller, one of quarterback Mark Sanchez’s favorite targets, New York signed tight end Dedrick Epps – who was in training camp with the Jets – off Chicago’s practice squad.
Pittsburgh might be without a few key defensive players, too, as safety Troy Polamalu (strained right calf) and linebacker James Harrison (left knee) didn’t practice Friday and were questionable for the game.
Revis has missed just three games in his career, all in 2010. Now, the Jets will head to Pittsburgh with a tough matchup coming up with the Steelers’ trio of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
Kyle Wilson, a first-round draft pick in 2010, will start in Revis’ place opposite Antonio Cromartie. Ellis Lankster will move in Wilson’s usual nickelback spot. Safety Eric Smith is also expected to make his season debut after being hobbled since the preseason with hip and knee injuries.
”With Darrelle not playing, we have a lot of confidence in Kyle Wilson,” Ryan said. ”Obviously, he has to step up in a starter role, which he’s ready for. Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant will share some nickel and dime responsibilities. It’ll be good to get Eric Smith back, and we think he’s ready to roll. The guys that are stepping up in this case, I always believe, the guys who step up and replace that guy, have to maintain that level – or maybe even a little better.
”In this case, we’ll take a little less with the Darrelle Revis deal.”
A few minutes before Ryan’s announcement, Revis said he ”felt good” being back on the field, but knew the ”the clock is ticking” on whether he would be available.
”It was just limited reps today, that’s all it was,” said Revis, who had been limited earlier in the week to riding the stationary bike on the sideline during practice. ”It’s just getting better every day. It’s just the process. That’s what I’ve really been doing. I feel good today, and we just have to go from there and hope that every day I get better and better.”
It is the first concussion of Revis’ playing career at any level of football, and the cornerback never paid attention to the NFL’s rules – which have increased to try to better protect players – on head injuries.
”This is a new thing for me,” he said. ”I going about it the best way I can and I’m learning new things about concussions and going from there.”
Ryan previously said the team would know by Saturday, when the Jets fly to Pittsburgh, whether Revis would join them for the game against the Steelers. Revis added that ”it’s really not my call” when asked if he would like to travel anyway to help the team from the sideline.
”I just have to do what they tell me to do, man,” Revis said. ”That’s what I’m doing, is just following guidelines and what they’re telling me to do.”
Revis, despite hoping to play, said the uncertainty at the time over whether he would play did not add any frustration.
”No, it’s my head,” Revis said. ”It’s a head injury, so I’ve got to do the best I can and make sure I’m healthy first and the team does as well. Everybody’s looking out for my best interest, and I think that’s the focus here, to make sure I’m 100 percent before I step out onto the field (for a game).”
Wilson was the Jets’ top draft pick out of Boise State two years ago, but struggled as a rookie before settling into a backup role behind Revis and Cromartie. Wilson has spent the past few offseasons training with Revis.
”It takes time,” Revis said. ”I remember when I was a rookie and was learning from veteran cornerbacks as well. This is his third year and you can see it on the field. You can see the communication, you can see the confidence in himself that he can go out there and perform. I’m proud of him.”
Revis added that after he got an interception against the Bills on Buffalo’s first possession, Wilson came over to him and said he was getting one next. Sure enough, Wilson picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick on the very next drive.
”He wants to be a great football player,” Ryan said of Wilson. ”And why not learn from the best? That’s exactly what he’s done.”
Keller, who has led the Jets in receptions the last two seasons, was hurt in the team’s preseason game against Carolina on Aug. 26. He started against Buffalo and had one catch for 7 yards, but was limited in the game. Keller practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, but felt soreness in his right hamstring Thursday and hasn’t practiced since.
Thomas injured a hamstring during the game last Sunday and didn’t practice all week. Garrett McIntyre will play in Thomas’ place.
Guard Dennis Landolt has been out since hurting a knee during training camp. Trufant (ankle) and fullback John Conner (right knee) were listed as questionable.
Notes: QB Tim Tebow laughed off a column in one of the New York-area tabloids earlier in the week that speculated he might ask for a trade after the season if he continues to remain a backup. ”I find that pretty funny,” a smiling Tebow said. ”It’s about as true as me living in Hoboken, I think. I guess that’s just part of what you have to deal with, is rumors and stuff like that. All I can say is I love being here as a Jet, I’m thankful for it and I want to be here for a long time.” … Ryan on playing at Pittsburgh for the first time since losing the AFC championship game at the end of the 2010 season: ”If we win this week, is it going to make up for that loss? No, absolutely not. That was a championship game and this is obviously a regular-season game, but every game’s important and I’d love to win here. But, it’ll never make up for losing the championship game there.”