Bucs corner Darrelle Revis is, by all indications, physically ready for today's season opener against the Jets.
But will the emotional scars of a torn ACL in his left knee, sustained during the third quarter of the Jets' 23-20 overtime victory against the Dolphins on Sept. 23, impact his performance?
"How somebody will play post-injury is hard to predict," said John Murray, a Palm Beach-based clinical sports psychologist. "But it is only natural for an athlete to be cautious, to fear reinjuring the knee, because they just don't think that they are as physically strong as they once were."
Murray, one of the most respected psychologists in his field, pointed to Bulls star point guard Derrick Rose, the NBA's MVP in 2010-11 who sat out last season after tearing his left ACL during the 2012 playoffs.
"He took a lot of heat from the fans," Murray said. "But he just wasn't ready mentally to get back in the game."
Revis, 28, a three-time All-Pro, practiced during training camp but did not play in any preseason games.
"In this day and age, an ACL tear is no longer a career-ending injury," said George Canizares, an orthopedic surgeon based in St. Petersburg. "A professional athlete working seven days a week can get back to top physical shape in five or six months. But the psychological healing may take much longer."
Canizares, who has worked with high school, college and professional athletes, said an ACL injury can, literally, be a game-changer.
"If you have a running quarterback who tears their knee on a play, when they do come back, they may think twice about taking off when they see that opening downfield," he said. "They might just take an extra second to look again for an open receiver. An injury like that can change the way they play the game."
Koco Eaton, the orthopedic surgeon for the Rays, said only time will tell how Revis copes with his repaired ACL.
"You can fix the knee, but you cannot erase the memory of that injury overnight," Eaton said. "There is no magic wand that you wave to make it all better."
Eaton said overcoming an injury is a process. Some athletes regain their confidence right away. For others, it takes longer.
"It could be the first time they take a solid hit in practice," he said. "There will be a moment when the confidence comes back. But whether that takes a week, month or even a year is anybody's guess."
Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected]