TAMPA — As Darrelle Revis walked through the smoke near the tunnel at the Bucs draft party Thursday waiting to be introduced, fans leaning over the railings at Raymond James Stadium to catch an early glimpse of the Pro Bowl cornerback extended their hands and screamed greetings.
"Good luck, Darrelle!" one fan shouted. "Reee-vus, Reee-vus, Reee-vus," another chanted. "Revis Island comes to Tampa, baby!" a third chimed in.
Revis, who was traded from the Jets only five days ago, smiled broadly and slapped hands with about a half-dozen fans before making his way (walking, not running) to the 50-yard line where he had been preceded by seven other Bucs stars, including 49ers free agent safety Dashon Goldson.
The Bucs entered Thursday's draft without a first-round pick, having traded it to the Jets as part of compensation for Revis. But if anything, that only added to fan enthusiasm. Revis, the 14th overall pick by the Jets in 2007 out of Pittsburgh, said he felt like he had been drafted all over again.
"Yeah, it kind of feels like that, all the excitement and everything going on," he said. "I'm excited and I'm sure my teammates are, and the organization as well. We're excited just to come out here to this draft party and show a little bit of excitement and have fun with it."
When Goldson, a two-time Pro Bowl player, signed in March, he had no idea the Bucs would be trading for the best cornerback in football. As the highlights of Revis and Goldson played on the Jumbotron, it was easy for Bucs fans to envision plenty of exciting fall Sundays.
"Definitely, when you get a player like that to come to your football team, it's very exciting to be a part of," Goldson said.
What impact can a shutdown corner like Revis have?
"It limits what an offense can do," Goldson said. "But I'm sure we'll be all over the field, not just on one side. A lot of teams will have to respect who they're going up against, and it should make things interesting on Sundays."
The Bucs have not reached the postseason in five years and 19 of their past 23 home games were subject to a local television blackout. Acquiring two top defensive backs could make the team a contender again.
Standing near the 50-yard line were three big reasons for optimism: safety Mark Barron, running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David, the Bucs' first three draft picks in 2012 who combined to start 48 games.
The team provided a free party and a chance for an estimated crowd of 15,000 to roam the turf at RJS, throw footballs and get within touching distance of the club's biggest stars, including quarterback Josh Freeman, Martin, David, Barron, Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy.
"It's awesome," said Revis, a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl pick. "This is for the fans. We want to get our fans excited for this year. It's all noise right now, but we want to get everybody excited. That's the key for tonight.
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"I mean, we're a young team. We're growing, and the additions of me and Dashon are great. We've been veterans in this league, we've made plays in this league. So, yeah, I mean we're here to add to this team."
Count McCoy, who was named to his first Pro Bowl last season, among the biggest fans of Revis and Goldson. Tampa Bay has not had more than 27 sacks in any of the past three seasons. The team finished last in pass defense last season, allowing nearly 300 yards per game. McCoy said the improved secondary should help the pass rush.
"You can't beat having time," McCoy said. "There were a lot of times I would hit the quarterback or chase him out of the pocket and he would have a chance to get the ball out. Split seconds, man. That split second that these additions to the team will give us will be great for everybody."
BACK OFF FREEMAN: McCoy likes to get after quarterbacks but occasionally he will protect one. McCoy came to the defense of Freeman at the draft party. "You're not allowed to have a few down games," he said of Freeman. "But at midseason they were talking about him making the Pro Bowl, and there was MVP talk. So it's an up-and-down league."
NOTHING FINER: Goldson watched the 49ers be transformed by the arrival of former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. He said he sees some parallels with the Bucs and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.
"Definitely, the work ethic is there," Goldson said. "I hate to compare because of where I came from, but I see it's the same sort of mind-set. The coaches came from a college program, they got the young guys in here and their mind-set is where it needs to be.
"Right now, I think we're on the right path. We've just got to keep going and keep pushing every day."