The thought of Darrelle Revis wearing something other than a green and white jersey once seemed impossible to New York Jets fans.
After all, he was easy to root for: a shutdown cornerback who frustrated the NFL's best wide receivers on a weekly basis.
And then, after six seasons, Revis was gone.
With Revis coming off a major knee injury and knowing that the two sides would never come close to a new contract, new Jets general manager John Idzik traded him to Tampa Bay. Feeling healthy after a long rehabilitation process and hoping to play Sunday in the season opener, Revis makes his return to MetLife Stadium against the team that gave him his start.
"I moved on from those experiences I had," Revis said. "I had a great six years there. Now I've just got to move on. I've got a new start ahead of me, with a new team and I'm excited to be a Buccaneer."
Jets fans certainly aren't thrilled, and it will be interesting to see the reception he receives from the folks who once cheered his every play.
"I'm not concerned about that," Revis said. "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be coming up there with 53 guys, including the coaching staff and our owner. We're coming up there with an army and we're coming up there to get a win."
Hear that, Geno Smith?
The Buccaneers might be licking their chops at facing the Jets' rookie starting quarterback, who got the call with Mark Sanchez out with an injured shoulder. The second-round pick out of West Virginia played only 69 snaps in the preseason, but he's ready for his NFL debut.
"I always dreamed of being in the NFL, but it was always a long shot," Smith said. "You can't really put too much into those things, especially as a kid. Yeah, there's dreams, but at the same time you have to go out and chase it. To be here and to have an opportunity to start is great. But, I'm not here to celebrate."
Here are five things to watch for in the season opener for the Buccaneers and Jets:
1. GENO'S DEBUT: The Jets organization might have been hoping for Smith to win the quarterback competition all along, but the way it ultimately came about — with Sanchez's injury — clouded things. There are plenty of questions, with the top being whether the rookie is anywhere close to being ready to start as an NFL quarterback. It will be offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's task to tailor a game plan around Smith, which means there could be lots of plays out of the shotgun and some read option.
2. REVIS RECEPTION: All signs are pointing to Revis playing for the first time in nearly a year, since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Miami. Bucs coach Greg Schiano gradually increased his workload during training camp and held Revis out of preseason games. If he does play, and start, as expected, Revis will have no restrictions, Schiano said. That means the Jets will find out quickly if the "Revis Rules" — Rex Ryan's term for not throwing in Revis' direction — are in effect.
3. DEE INSTEAD OF DARRELLE: With Revis' departure, the Jets were down a shutdown corner. But they're hoping Antonio Cromartie will play as well as he did while Revis was injured last season, when Cromartie established himself as a true No. 1 cornerback. The Jets used their first pick in the draft — No. 9 overall — to select former Alabama star Dee Milliner with the hope that he'll be able to step into the lineup opposite Cromartie. Milliner has been limited by a calf injury the last few weeks, but he insisted he'll be ready to fully go by kickoff.
4. DIGGIN' DOUG: While overshadowed a bit by an incredibly talented rookie class of quarterbacks, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin made the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is the key to an offense that includes Josh Freeman, who became Tampa Bay's first 4,000-yard passer, and wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who had 72 catches for 1,384 and eight touchdowns. If Martin can get off to a good start on the ground, that should open things up for Freeman. The Jets' front seven, led by lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie Sheldon Richardson, are faster and more athletic than they have been in a few years — which should make for a nice matchup.
5. ON THE LINE: Both teams have big questions on their offensive lines. Jets center Nick Mangold has two new players on either side of him with veteran Willie Colon at right guard — and Vladimir Ducasse, whom the team has been waiting to live up to his second-round status in 2010, at left guard. Protecting Smith will be of extreme importance against a defense that is hoping to ramp up its pass rush, as will establishing the running game with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Tampa Bay's line allowed Freeman to get sacked nine times in its first three preseason games. The unit could be without starting guard Carl Nicks, who was diagnosed with an MRSA infection.
Online: AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org/