TAMPA — Darrelle Revis has played in 79 career games, been to four Pro Bowls and earned All-Pro honors three times. And yet, as he lay in bed Wednesday night on the eve of training camp, this accomplished football player was, well, nervous.
"I didn't sleep good," Revis said Thursday after completing his first practice since tearing a knee ligament last year. "I think it was just being anxious. I had butterflies for the first day of practice, to get back out there not knowing what the outcome was going to be."
Revis, traded in April from the Jets to the Bucs in the offseason's biggest transaction, had a mostly uneventful morning. The cornerback did individual drills and matched up with receivers during a half-speed deep-ball drill.
But it was a landmark event given where Revis was in September, sprawled on the turf with a left knee that would require surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Now in the final stages of his recovery from that torn ACL, Revis is getting back to what he has missed all these months.
"It was great," he said. "I've been looking forward to this day since I've been injured. It was awesome to be out there with my teammates and be out there with my coaches doing what I love doing."
One key to his readiness is how the Bucs and Revis handle his return. He won't do much for the time being. But his involvement in practice will slowly increase, coach Greg Schiano said.
The steps will be incremental and come only after extensive consultation with coaches, the medical staff and Revis.
"There are mileposts," Schiano said. "Going up against another guy would be a big one. Right now it's all independent movements against air. Then you get into a team setting, then you get into a padded team setting, then you get into a live (contact) setting. Then, if you do play him in a preseason game, that would probably the biggest milepost other than opening day."
At times, Revis might want to do more. He readily admits as much. But he has the maturity to concede when necessary.
The plan, he said, is to ease in and take it day by day: "If it's best for me to be healthy for Sept. 8 (the season opener against the Jets), then that's what it has to be. It's all on Coach. I think we're all on the same page here. I think the biggest thing is they might have to hold me back because I'm such a competitor. I'm so anxious to get out there and compete."
As Revis progresses, he'll subject his injured knee to greater stress. The associated mental obstacles can be as great as the physical ones, but Revis thinks he overcame those during his private workouts in Arizona, "going through those stresses in my knee, putting me in that position."
"It's hard at (defensive back)," he said. "We're in so many positions. You have to really stress those things when you do have a knee injury. I think that was one of the key things we focused on, so I can be back to playing how I always play, at that top level."
Having Revis on the field for the first time was a treat for some of the Bucs' young cornerbacks. They long have emulated and looked up to him. Now they can say they've shared a huddle with him.
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"It's like a dream," rookie Johnthan Banks said. "Back in college, I'm watching Revis (saying), 'This guy is the best at what he does.' Now I'm on the same field as him, like, 'Wow, that's Revis.' You kind of get in a daze and Coach has to call your name two or three times. It's exciting."
Revis hadn't felt a part of something for quite some time. He played only two games last season, and he was sidelined for all offseason workouts.
"When I was hurt, I would still go to the games to support my teammates in New York," he said. "It was a different point of view sitting in the stands instead of being out there on the sidelines. It kind of felt like I wasn't a part of the team. It was weird."
Thursday, Revis finally moved past that point.