TAMPA, Fla. – After nearly two months of eagerly waiting to get traded, cornerback Darrelle Revis finally found a serene moment with friends, family and confidants. Just after 10 p.m. on Sunday, the group walked out on the rooftop patio of his hotel. Looking east back over the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Revis took in the view of the Tampa skyline, the downtown lights popping out from the black foreground of the city's bay.
Cigars were lit by friends and everything was going great … until hotel security showed up to politely explain that the group had to go.
In what could have been a diva moment, this was anything but. Revis nodded to men charged with just doing their job and led the group down to another patio next to the lobby bar. The conversation continued for another hour or so before everybody called it a night after a whirlwind day of a plane ride.
For a great player who just got traded from the New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the prime of his career and signed a six-year, $96 million contract (no guaranteed money), this wasn't exactly the party you'd expect. Then again, Revis isn't what a lot of people make him out to be. It's not his personality he wants on display – it's his art. That's why, earlier this offseason after months of needling from Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, Revis finally got into a Twitter war with the mouthy Sherman.
"You just get tired of listening to it. After like three or four months, enough is enough," Revis said, completely composed but a little annoyed. "Why do you have to talk so much about how you're the greatest? Just put your work out there and let your peers judge who's best. That's all you should do."
On Sunday, the 27-year-old Revis became the modern standard for all cornerbacks to be judged by. If nothing else, the gray T-shirt he wore with the Latin expression "Sui Generis" probably explained him best – of his own kind, unique.
Certainly, the contract he signed Sunday after being dealt to the Bucs for the No. 13 overall pick in the draft this year and a conditional pick (either third or fourth round) in 2014 puts him in rare company.
It matches a deal that defensive end Mario Williams got last offseason and puts Revis in the neighborhood of wide receivers Calvin Johnson (eight years, $132 million) and Larry Fitzgerald (eight years, $113 million). Those are the top deals in the league for players who are not quarterbacks.
As much as Revis' career has been defined by his contracts (he and the Jets haggled before his 2007 rookie season and he held out in 2010), there's an important reason why he has been able to pull off the leverage game.
He's that good.
Moreover, he's focused on being that good. He has been tutored by his uncle Sean Gilbert, a former NFL defensive tackle, that the only way to get paid in this game is to perform.
The stories about Revis' steely resolve are numerous. In 2011, he went into the season opener against Dallas being told that he was going to defend receiver Miles Austin all game. When the Jets started having trouble with Dez Bryant, the coaching staff changed course and flipped Revis onto him.
Revis did his job, but lost his patience with then-secondary coach Dennis Thurman after the game. He told Thurman in no uncertain terms, just give him the best guy and be done with it.
This past season, as Revis focused on getting healthy after being knocked out for the season in the second week with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, he needed his space.
One day in October, Revis was in the training room doing his rehab work. At moments like that, Revis is immersed in his work. Former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum didn't get that and went in to ask Revis some questions about Aaron Berry, a free-agent cornerback the Jets wanted to sign. Revis and Berry were teammates at the University of Pittsburgh.
Revis politely tried to tell Tannenbaum that he didn't want to talk about it at that moment. Revis wanted to concentrate on his rehab, a tedious-yet-important process in ACL recovery. Tannenbaum persisted and Revis grew increasingly annoyed.
Afterward, another Jets employee had to call Schwartz to explain the growing tension that Tannenbaum was unwittingly creating. Schwartz set up a meeting with Tannenbaum and explained to the GM that there were just certain times when Revis needed to be left alone. In so many words, Tannenbaum was killing Revis' rehab vibe. Ultimately, that wasn't good for anybody.
But none of that is why Revis was dealt. This was a business decision by Jets owner Woody Johnson. His team is stuck in a bad place only three years removed from the second of back-to-back AFC championship games, the first of which was led by Revis playing well enough to be runner-up for AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
New York is stuck with a series of onerous contracts, including almost $16 million in guaranteed money this year for quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Yeah, the irony of paying that much for those two guys instead of Revis shouldn't be lost on Jets fans.
Such is life in the NFL. Tannenbaum, the guy who signed Sanchez and Holmes to those deals, is now gone. He was replaced by John Idzik, a guy who dragged this deal out even though he had no other bidders.
Idzik stretched it out long enough that any empathy Revis had for the Jets is pretty much gone. This is a guy who wanted to be a Jet for life. A year ago, when there was still some belief that he would sign an extension with the Jets, Revis started sizing up condos in SoHo. He wanted to live the New York life, with all its energy and intensity, like an artist looking for inspiration.
Instead, he took amusement from reaction of his former fans.
"This one Jets fan wrote, 'I hope you tear your other ACL,' " Revis said, laughing lightly and shaking his head simultaneously. When a reporter joked with Revis about how he had been referred to by another media member as a "locker-room lawyer" and a "cancer" on the Jets, Revis returned quip for quip.
"Well, I was born on July 14, so I am a Cancer," he said.
For anyone who might think Revis would be overwhelmed by the pressure that comes with this trade and this contract, that concern is probably misplaced.
Revis gave the Bucs some cover on his contract. Not a dollar of it is guaranteed. That is the dual risk that Revis must take coming off a torn ACL and the premium the Bucs must pay (Revis got a $10 million bump in salary this season) for a guy who made four Pro Bowls in his first five years.
What Revis and his agents understand is that it's almost a certainty that he'll get the first two years of the deal. The Bucs aren't going to cut him this year and probably won't let him go next year after giving up those picks. Not unless Revis can't come back from the knee injury, which is a small risk at this point based on the results on an MRI that he took last Monday.
Revis' ability to focus helps him filter the important from the trivial. While he wants to be paid what he believes he deserves, he doesn't care much for distractions or the trappings of fame and wealth.
As his friends and family sat outside as a light rain began to fall, agent Jonathan Feinsod was reading through a list of messages he and partner Neil Schwartz had already received from local businesses. In particular, real-estate agents were ready to hook up Revis with a new home.
Feinsod picked out one message to read aloud, laughing as the real-estate agent referred to a house as being an "MTV Cribs-quality" place.
"Oh yeah, that's what I really want," Revis said, the sarcasm cutting through the cool night air and cutting away any sense of fluff.
No, Revis may be rich and he may be famous, but he's here to work.Which NFL prospect is ready to make an immediate impact?:
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