A day turned into a week, which turned into a month -- 34 days without Darrelle Revis, to be exact.
Now, barring a dramatic change in negotiations, the New York Jets face the likelihood of opening the regular season -- and their new $1.6 billion stadium -- without the holdout cornerback.
You can almost feel a sense of resignation in the locker room.
"Guys just think it's a tragedy that it has come to this and that it couldn't be worked out," one player told ESPNNewYork.com, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "But on the flip side, guys are ready to move on."
Revis' absence wasn't noticeable in the preseason, as the Jets' starting defense -- with rookie Kyle Wilson replacing him in the lineup -- allowed only one touchdown in three games. (The starters didn't play the finale.) But the preseason is the preseason, and there's no doubt they will miss the All-Pro cornerback when the real games begin.
It begins on a national stage, fitting for a team that craves attention. The Jets, the summertime stars of HBO's "Hard Knocks," open on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," facing the Baltimore Ravens at the New Meadowlands Stadium. No doubt, the storyline will focus on their phantom cornerback.
Linebacker Bart Scott, one of the leaders on defense, said he and his Jets teammates have no choice but to approach the game -- the season, really -- as though Revis won't be there.
"Yeah, of course," Scott said Thursday night after the Jets' win over the Philadelphia Eagles. "We haven't seen him. He hasn't taken one practice rep, so you have to assume that. You have to make arrangements to game plan accordingly to what we have on the field.
"I'd love to see Revis walk through the door," Scott added. "But I'll play with the guys I've got."
The Jets' front office seems willing to take its chances against Baltimore without Revis. The Ravens' passing attack should be improved with the addition of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, but they're not a spread-the-field, air-it-out offense. One NFL personnel executive, who didn't want his name used, believes a Revis-less secondary would hold up against the Ravens.
"But they'll struggle against elite passing teams like the Patriots," the executive said.
Guess who the Jets face in Week 2?
Coach Rex Ryan oozes confidence -- too much, his critics will say -- and he will try to turn Revis' absence into a rallying cry. Just last week, he said (with a straight face) that "there's not a question in my mind that we'll play great" without Revis.
The Jets are planning to start Wilson and former Pro Bowl selection Antonio Cromartie at cornerback, hardly a terrible duo, but the third and fourth corners are Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman, respectively. Ryan needs strong cornerback play to run his multiple blitz packages.
That's why Revis is so valuable, but not valuable enough to meet his $16 million-a-year asking price. One teammate said some players on the team wish Revis would seek advice from someone outside his circle of confidantes, "someone with a clear mind outside the situation."
In the meantime, the standoff continues, with no conclusion in sight.