Watch: Darrelle Revis on the latest step in his comeback
Darrelle Revis's methodical return from a knee injury suffered last September passed another milestone on Monday, one that Revis himself deemed to be quite significant. On the other hand, Carl Nicks' comeback from his own 2012 season-ending injury has hit what will hopefully prove to be a minor snag.
The carefully-considered plan that Revis and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been adhering to since the All-Pro cornerback was acquired from the New York Jets in an April trade has had a number of important moments, such as when he began covering receivers in a separate drill two weeks ago. On Monday, Revis did the same thing but in a full-team context as part of a greatly expanded role in practice. He did not take any direct contact but he got a lot of work in terms of coverage and run fits. He even had two one-on-one reps against the Bucs' top receiver, Vincent Jackson, who didn't take it easy on his Pro Bowl teammate.
"He was coming at me full-speed, like the big guy he is, and I was just out there playing," said Revis, laughing. "I think this was a huge step today. Just getting out there running, getting my run fits. That's the kind of stuff I was in there doing, so it was a huge step for me and it was a huge day, just being out there and moving around and not even having any problems – no soreness at the end of practice and no swelling. I think it's a huge step for me.
"That's the most work I have done, which is great. The game plan has been to take it one day at a time and get as many reps as I can. My knee has been feeling good and it was good for me to get in the team activities, to get out there and start running and being with the team."
Nicks appeared to be progressing nicely with his troublesome toe injury last Tuesday when he took part in most aspects of an intense joint practice with the New England Patriots. In fact, at the time it was considered likely that he would make his 2013 preseason debut in Friday night's game at Gillette Stadium. Instead, he developed a blister on the same foot that holds the injured toe, was held out of Friday's game for that reason and then subsequently suffered an infection in that blister. As such, he was out of practice on Monday and it is not yet clear when he will be able to return.
"[We'll] take it very seriously," said Head Coach Greg Schiano of Nicks' infection. "It's not something you mess around with, but it's not your common injury either. So the next question is 'How long will he be [out]?' I don't know that. We've got to let the medicine run its course and see if we can't get that thing straightened out."
The overall goal for both Revis and Nicks remains a start in the regular-season opener against the Jets on September 8. That is true as well for Tampa Bay's other Pro Bowl guard, Davin Joseph, who joined Revis in ramping up his practice participation on Monday. The Buccaneers also saw the return to practice of wide receiver Tiquan Underwood (knee) and running back Doug Martin (head), though cornerback Danny Gorrer (groin) continued to miss time.
Underwood and Martin both suffered their minor ailments in Friday's game against the Patriots. Martin's mishap received more attention because it happened in the game's opening minutes and because Martin is so critical to the Buccaneers' offense. The second-year back took a knee to the helmet while pass-blocking and had to be helped off the field. However, fears of a concussion eased quickly when Martin's early daze wore off and he passed the on-field cognitive tests with no problem. On Monday, Martin was back on the practice field – albeit with a precautionary "no-hit" order for the defenders – and afterward he said he is ready to suit up again on Saturday in Miami.
" I wasn't concerned at all because the symptoms went away pretty quick and they said I was fine," said Martin. "I definitely want to get some plays in [Saturday]. It would be nice to get two or three quarters out of it and get ready for the regular season."
It seems likely that Martin will be allowed to play in Saturday's game, as he has only logged about five snaps of preseason tune-up work so far. In last year's third preseason game, Martin stayed in for roughly one half with the team's starters and logged 13 carries for 53 yards. Whether or not Revis will play on Saturday or in the subsequent preseason finale against Washington, remains an almost-daily discussion, though there won't be much need to rehash the subject for the rest of the work week. Revis said on Monday that the decision will not be made until hours before the game.
"I felt great today, and hopefully tomorrow it's even better than that, progressing up to the game, and we'll see," he said. "If I do play, that will be a call on that day. I think that's the game plan and I think that's how we've got to approach this situation."
Schiano continues to maintain that Revis does not need any preseason game action in order to be ready for the Jets game. However, Schiano does believe that the next three weeks of practices will be very important in that process of getting Revis to the point where he can keep up with a full-speed game.
"I don't think he would want to play [in a game] right now; he hasn't done enough," said Schiano. "But that's why these 11 practices are crucial. Every step of the way we've locked the plan – evaluate it, lock it down again – and he's right where we want him to be. Today I'm anxious to watch the tape and see how he played, but the goal is to up it little by little, but only with positive feedback afterward. We're not going to push it. I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, this is a long-term relationship. It's not at-all-cost to have him play in that first game, but that's our plan."
Schiano said that he would listen to Revis if the veteran defender was eager to play in either Saturday's game or the preseason finale against Washington. However, he pointed out that his belief that Revis could start the regular-season without any preseason work and be fine isn't just wishful thinking. The former Jet went through a similar process during a contract dispute in 2010, and in that case missed all of training camp as well. Revis made the Pro Bowl and earned first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors that season.
"I've done that before, and this time I have a little more knowledge on that situation," he said. "So I think I'll be fine."