Another good thing happened Monday morning in Darrelle Revis's step-by-step return from a 2012 knee injury: He fell down.
As Revis and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to tick the boxes in the very deliberate process of returning Revis to his perch as the best cornerback in the NFL, two more got check marks at the start of a new week. And one of them made Revis feel like he was playing football again. The veteran cornerback, who was acquired from the New York Jets in a dramatic pre-draft trade, took part in some exercises Monday that weren't quite as scripted as what he had been doing in previous months.
"I did some DB drills today and got into it a little bit, a little aggressive," said Revis. "I fell on the grass a couple times and I'm getting back into that football phase of hitting the ground hard and getting back up, and just getting back in that mode."
Revis also continued to advance his other on-field activities, too. Last week, he began covering receivers as they ran through route trees, which obviously tested his ability to change directions on a dime. On Monday, he ran the same drill with the help of young receivers Terriun Crump and Chris Denton, but this time there was an actual football – and a quarterback flinging it – in the mix.
"He's covering receivers right now," said Head Coach Greg Schiano. "Today we had a quarterback interjected into the equation, so [he's] making plays on the football, which leads to a different amount of tangling up with the receiver because now you're both trying to go for the same thing. We'll do that for a little bit, then we'll up him to seven-on-seven, team stuff."
Last week, Schiano was most interested in how Revis felt the day after each of his two coverage drills. Not only did Revis not experience any additional swelling or soreness after those exercises, he hasn't run into any sort of setback since training camp began and he's been under the watchful eyes of Director of Sports Medicine and Performance Todd Toriscelli and his staff.
"No swelling after practices," he said . "Usually, what Todd and them look for is swelling. That would set you back. There's never been any swelling, just good improvement and trying to get it stronger."
Both Revis and Schiano say that the next step is to get Revis involved in higher-level drills such as the 7-on-7 passing period, the WR/DB one-on-one competitions and, of course, team run and team pass featuring 11 players on both sides. Revis said there wasn't a specific date set for that next development yet, but Schiano doesn't believe it's far off.
"It's going to be step by step," said the coach. "There's still probably several steps before [playing in a game], but I think – as long as nothing pushes us back – they're going to move rather quickly."
So far, Schiano hasn't wavered from his belief that Revis is likely to be ready to play in the regular-season opener against the New York Jets on September 8; he was asked again on Monday and he reiterated his confidence in that outcome. Revis won't yet say that it is a certainty, but it is obviously what he is shooting for.
"I think that's too far down the road," he said. "Right now, we're just trying to go day-by-day. That is the goal – we've talked about that – and I want to be there, first day, first game, be out there ready to roll with my teammates."