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Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Ryan's Jets begin Life Without Revis

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Remember that funny scene two summers ago in "Hard Knocks," when Rex Ryan wanders the players' dorm during bed check in search of Darrelle Revis?

"Revis, where are you?" Ryan asks no one in particular, playfully looking for his holdout cornerback. "Come on, Revis. Come on home."

The New York Jets' coach might have been thinking the same thing Wednesday, Day 1 of LWR -- Life Without Revis. The Jets held meetings without him, they practiced without him and they began preparations for the San Francisco 49ers without their best player.

Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis' absence loomed large in Florham Park on Wednesday.

It wasn't easy. You could almost feel a malaise in the building. Unlike two summers ago, the All-Pro cornerback isn't coming home. This is where Ryan comes in. It's his job to set the tone, to get his team out of the funk and make it believe it can win without Revis.

Ryan addressed it briefly in his morning team meeting, basically telling his players, "The season isn't going to stop just because Revis got hurt." Ryan also discussed it on Monday with the players. Asked if it's unusual for Ryan to talk about an injured player that often, defensive tackle Mike DeVito said, "It's Revis. It's not just an injured guy. He's one of the best defensive players in the NFL."

In terms of shock value, this is reminiscent of 1999, when quarterback Vinny Testaverde ruptured an Achilles tendon in the first game, sabotaging the Jets' Super Bowl dreams less than 30 minutes into the season. Testaverde was watching Sunday's game when he saw Revis' knee give out -- a non-contact injury, just like his -- and his mind traveled back to '99.

"That's what I was thinking when I saw him get hurt," Testaverde said. "It reminded me of my situation. Wow, it's a pretty devastating injury."

Back then, Bill Parcells tried to will the Jets past the Testaverde injury, but it didn't work. The team was in a daze -- honestly, so was Parcells -- and dropped five of its next six games.

The Jets rallied, but it was too late to save the season.

Losing a cornerback, even one as dominant as Revis, isn't as bad losing your starting quarterback. But this still is a tough deal for the Jets, a defensive-oriented team built around Revis' rare man-to-man coverage ability.

Ryan considers himself a master motivator. Well, it's time to motivate, because his team is vulnerable and vulnerable teams can fall into the tank with the slightest nudge. The once-elite defense already is struggling, ranked 21st in yards allowed. A stinker against the 49ers could be crushing to the unit's psyche.

"Well, I'd love to have Darrelle -- I wish Darrelle were playing -- but we have to move on and we will," Ryan said. "I like our plan going into the game."

The plan includes former first-round pick Kyle Wilson, who will step into Revis' starting role. Wilson took one look at the group of reporters coming for him and decided to bolt the locker room, indicating he'd answer questions another day. He won't be able to hide on Sundays, when opposing teams will go at him relentlessly.

The Jets talked a good game, of course. You have to do that or you have no shot.

"As good as Darrelle is, Darrelle doesn't play quarterback and he doesn't kick field goals," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "He's as good a shutdown corner as you get, but a lot of other guys have contributed to our success. It's a shame to lose him, but it's not the end of the world."

On the other side of the locker room, safety Yeremiah Bell -- one of the wise heads in the room -- acknowledged that "you can't replace him with one guy, you can't replace him with two guys. He's that good. It's going to take a total team effort."

Ryan talked up Wilson and he talked up Antonio Cromartie. He's good at talking up his own players. Remember Vernon Gholston? Ryan said he's confident the team has the right plan and the right personnel to overcome Revis' absence.

He also spent the entire summer hyping the Wildcat. And look how that has turned out.