Dave D'Onofrio's Patriots Notebook: Once a rival, now an ally
GIVEN that he staked his claim to the unofficial title of the league's top cornerback as a member of the Jets, it was only natural that Darrelle Revis felt a little bit strange Thursday and Friday as he went through his first workouts as a member of the Patriots.
New England was a rival for the six years he spent in New York, and the enemy in a so-called border war between the franchises that dates back long before his NFL lifetime. To trade green and white for blue and gray had to be in some ways surreal, even with a year in the Buccaneers' pewter and red bridging his transition from one team to the next. "It's been kind of weird in a way," he said - but ultimately it matters little how Revis feels about the colors on his uniform, or how he feels about switching sides in the division.
All that matters at this point is how he feels physically, and while it may take some time for Revis to get comfortable in his new surroundings and new situation, the good news is that from that perspective the superstar says he's as good now as he's ever been.
"I," he said, "am in the best shape of my career."
Remember, that's quite a career Revis is referencing. In six full seasons he's been selected to five Pro Bowls. He has 21 interceptions and has defended 108 passes, including the six picks and 31 balls he got his hands on in 2009 - which began a streak of three straight nominations as a first-team All-Pro.
That run was interrupted in 2012, when he tore the ACL in his left knee during the second game of the season. That proved to be his final game as a member of the Jets, as he forced a trade to Tampa Bay when he and New York hit an impasse on talks of a contract extension, and though he rewarded the Bucs with a season good enough to get him another trip to Hawaii, he admits now he wasn't completely recovered from the knee reconstruction.
But now he is. And the Patriots - who made him the game's highest-paid defensive back when Tampa cut him loose this spring - stand to reap the benefits.
"Coming off the ACL injury was tough for me," he said. "I finished all 16 games last year, but I still wasn't where I wanted to be physically as a player, so this is my first offseason where I can really focus on, not rehabbing, but just working out - working out and having a full offseason where I can just do that."
And after those workouts does the knee feel as good as it did before the injury?
"Oh, yes," Revis said. "They say it takes a year and a half or two. I think I'm at a point now where I'm there."
If that's true, he should be at a point where he can make the case that he's the league's best at his position - a distinction that tends to get the elite cornerbacks all riled up. Revis and the Seahawks' Richard Sherman engaged in an infamous back-and-forth over Twitter when the topic arose early in 2013, though Revis says no he's got nothing to prove, wins are all that matters, and he'll leave it up to the media to rate the players as they see fit.
And that's apparently not the only way he's already bought in to being a Patriot.
"He's worked hard," coach Bill Belichick said. "Smart guy. I've been impressed with him. Very professional. Has a good understanding of the game, he's a smart player and he's had a real good focus and instinct. He's a smart player scheme-wise but he knows how to play. He's a very instinctive player."
When he was with the Jets, Revis infamously referred to Belichick as a "jerk," though Friday he referred to a "friendship" with his new coach, and the coach said he'd enjoyed the chance to establish a personal relationship with his new defensive linchpin.
After all, they're on the same side now. The past is the past. Bygones are bygones. Feelings have changed.
None more important than the way Revis feels about his body.
"I'm excited about this year," he said. "I worked my butt off this offseason to get in shape and get my weight down, and I'm just getting prepared for a long season."
DEFENSIVE lineman Tommy Kelly returned to practice Saturday, activated from the physically unable to perform list after a knee injury ended last season for him after Week 5.
Reports indicated that while the rest of the team wore pads for the first time this camp, he wore shorts and sat out the contact drills.
That suggests he's still got some rehab work to do, and in the meantime opportunity continues to knock for Sealver Siliga on the inside next to Vince Wilfork.
The Pats' PUP list had been narrowed to four, though none of the names is insignificant. On the list are recievers Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Gallon and Matthew Slater, as well as cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Dobson is a player the Pats are hoping can make a leap in year two after showing some signs of emergence as a rookie, but continues to be plagued by a foot problem.
Slater is a Pro Bowl-caliber special teams captain, while Gallon is a seventh-round draft pick who could force the Pats into decisions on some of their other young wideouts if he gets the opportunity to make an impression. Dennard was a starting cornerback for the Pats the past two seasons, but remains sidelined by a shoulder injury as the team looks to determine who'll play opposite Revis until Brandon Browner returns from a four-game suspension.
According to the Patriots' website, 13,819 fans attended Saturday morning's sessions on the practice field behind Gillette Stadium. The team works out again this morning at 9:15, and has yet to announce its schedule for the coming week. The team's first preseason game is a week from Thursday at Washington.
Dave D'Onofrio covers the Patriots for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.