When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded their 2013 first-round pick and a conditional selection in 2014 to the New York Jets for cornerback Darrelle Revis in April, they knew they were getting damaged goods. And that was just fine.
The Buccaneers knew Revis would be approximately nine months removed from surgery when training camp began. However, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik sounded confident in discussing the goal for his return (via Pro Football Talk). “One hundred percent he’ll be out there,” Dominik said on Revis playing in Week 1 of the regular season. It was far-fetched to believe he could fully participate at any time during camp.
But gradually, Revis started taking part in training-camp drills. He was cleared to begin cutting on his knee in late May, medically cleared for training camp in July, covered a wide receiver for the first time a week later and then saw work in seven-on-seven drills for the first time two weeks after that.
Revis still hasn’t participated in full-squad, 11-on-11 drills, and he was forced to watch from the sideline when the Buccaneers traveled to New England to practice with the Patriots. But according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Revis may suit up and play in Tampa Bay’s third preseason game against the Dolphins on Aug. 24.
That would be a mistake.
It’s completely understandable that Revis wants to get out there and play. He’s passed every test his knee has been given, and he’s shown no signs of stress on the surgically repaired ligament. And Revis certainly sounds as confident as he looks:
I think at the end of the day, you've got to go through the ACL process and waiting, and 'hey, let's do these drills and these exercises, let's be patient, let's not get on the field yet, let's get on the field.' I'll be fine. Trust me. I'm back to my old self. I'm getting there. It's just a confidence and just trying to get that knee drive and breaking on balls.
It’s just not a safe decision. If Revis were to play on Aug. 24 in Miami, he’d be back on the field 11 months and a day (335 days) after originally tearing his ACL and just 10 months and eight days post-surgery. Revis may think he’s fine—he may even be 100 percent. But why risk it?
Seeing game action against a team not wearing the same jersey as Revis, while desirable, isn’t necessary for a cornerback. Revis doesn’t have to get in sync with a quarterback throwing him routes like he would if he were a wide receiver. Revis lives on an island, as he’s done his entire career. He reacts to the man he’s covering with zero help from anyone. And Revis was the best at it in the NFL before his injury.
Revis can watch film of opposing receivers, continue his conditioning program and get reps in a controlled environment against his own team if he wants to work in live cover drills. There’s no reason to subject him to live contact where the opponent certainly would not have his best interest at heart.
The first argument that’s typically made at this point is, "Adrian Peterson came back quickly, and look what he did." While accurate, Peterson’s situation was different.
As a running back, Peterson gets to decide when he makes a cut. He knows which way he’s running and knows, prior to doing so, when he’s going to change direction. Revis, on the other hand, has no idea what route the receiver he’s covering is going to run. He has no idea when that receiver is going to stop, cut, hook or accelerate. Revis only gets to react.
Revis will be less than a year removed from his original injury when the Buccaneers take the field against the New York Jets in Week 1 of the regular season. Why not wait those extra 15 days before asking him to get back out on that island?
The time between the third preseason game and Week 1 of the regular season can only help Revis. And the benefits he’d gain from playing in the preseason aren’t great enough to outweigh the devastation of a potential preseason injury.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.