If you happened to ever see Darrelle Revis away from the field during Jets training camp at SUNY Cortland this summer, there's a high probability he was wearing a Chicago Bulls hat.
Like Chicago superstar Derrick Rose, Revis, the Jets' top defensive player, now finds himself in the same position as the Bulls floor general: having to overcome a left ACL tear during the prime of his professional career.
"It's a sad moment," linebacker Calvin Pace said, "because to my knowledge, he's never missed a game, the guy has always been healthy. For somebody who's hurt — I've been hurt before — rehabbing is harder than playing, because you're sitting out, watching the guys go out and practice, playing games, and you're trying to stay positive. It's a tough situation, but everybody's here for him. We're going to try to keep his spirits up."
The announcement that the All Pro cornerback tore his anterior cruciate ligament and will require season-ending surgery was made at head coach Rex Ryan's news conference today.
"This is a team game and as a team we have to step it up," Ryan said. "And our guys, I think we'll respond. We certainly have to accept the challenge. We're going to come out and compete. We may do it a bit differently, but we're going to give it our best shot."
The non-contact injury occurred late in the third quarter of the Jets' 23-20 overtime win at Miami Sunday when Revis attempted to tackle Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas on a short pass.
The sixth-year pro was just returning to full strength after suffering a mild concussion during the team's opener against Buffalo on Sept. 9 that forced him to miss the game at Pittsburgh last week.
"I'm not sure what he dealt with going through college," center Nick Mangold said, "but I know if that's a first major injury that's a difficult thing to deal with. I'm sure he's leaning on other guys who have been through that."
One guy he should lean on is linebacker Bryan Thomas. Thomas hasn't suffered an ACL tear, but did tear his left Achilles tendon around this same time a year ago. The setback forced Thomas to miss the remainder of 2011.
"I'm going to give him a call because I know exactly what he's going through," Thomas said. "I went through this last year. So I know exactly what he's going through, and I'm going to try and give him a call today and give him some comfort."
With No. 24 now sidelined for the foreseeable future, Kyle Wilson, the Jets' first-round draft selection in 2010, will be asked to step into the starting role. Wilson said he is excited about the task and believes he is experienced to make the transition. Meanwhile he's started already this season in Revis' absence, during the loss at Pittsburgh.
"I'll still be communicating with him," Wilson said. "I always pick that guy's brain. He's obviously pretty good. Our communication will still be the same, but overall, I just have to continue to do my job, go out there, have fun and make plays."
Revis' impact on the Jets defense has easily been noticed ever since he joined the NFL in 2007. Despite seeing action in just two games this season, he recorded an interception and recovered a fumble. Linebacker Aaron Maybin put the cornerback's injury into perspective this way: "There's certain times, where you kind of don't think about what's going on with the guy that Darrelle is covering, because you just expect that he's going to have him blanketed."
As the Jets begin to look ahead to San Francisco and eventually beyond, the news today still was saddening to take in.
"He's a leader," Thomas said. "He's a leader all the way. That's what he is. He's a leader on the field. He's a leader off the field. He's a leader all the way around. That's the type of person he is. He's going to be well missed."
Now the question shifts to: Can No. 24's teammates persevere without him? Shortly there will be an answer. "We're not going to ask Kyle to go out and be Darrelle, we're not going to ask Ellis [Lankster] to go out and be Darrelle," Pace said. "A number of people have to step up and try to affect the game in the same way he did. Obviously, it's not going to be in the same manner. We have to find a way to regroup and try to get better. As a whole defensively, it hasn't been good enough."