Dee Milliner absent from camp

Updated: July 27, 2013, 8:37 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Former New York Jets star Darrelle Revis is long gone. His potential replacement, first-round pick Dee Milliner, still hasn't signed a contract -- a troubling start to training camp.

Coach Rex Ryan admitted Saturday he's "frustrated" and "disappointed" by Milliner's absence, but he doesn't see his team suffering from post-Revis withdrawal -- not now, not later this season.

"Was he a phenomenal player? Absolutely," said Ryan, who once called Revis the best player in franchise history. "But we have a lot of good players here on both sides of the ball."

Ryan paused a moment.

"I think we're going to be okay," he said, revealing a sly grin.

The Jets are adjusting to Life After Revis, with players and coaches admitting it's impossible to fill the void with one player.

"People are right: We won't be able to replace him," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "Darrelle is Darrelle. There are very few guys that are cut from that cloth."

No one appreciated Revis more than former secondary coach Dennis Thurman, the new defensive coordinator. But Thurman refused to dwell on his former pupil and what they're missing.

"You can't look at it that way," Thurman said. "If you do, you make a mistake. In our minds, he's invisible. He has to be. We're focusing on the players here."

Several players were upset when Revis was traded in April to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jets refused to meet his contract demands -- $16 million per year -- so they dealt him before he became a free agent next year. They received a first-round pick, using it to select defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

The Jets didn't want to deal with a Revis contract situation this summer, especially with him coming off major knee surgery. Ironically, they're engaged in a contract dispute with Milliner, whom they picked ninth overall.

Milliner is one of only three top-10 picks that hasn't signed a contract. With a rookie wage scale, negotiations should be streamlined, but the two sides can't agree on the issue of offset language, according to a source.

The Jets' policy is to include an offset clause in the contract, which could save them money in the unlikely event they cut the player before the four-year contract expires.

General manager John Idzik didn't share much insight into the Milliner negotiations, except to say, "I don't think it's a frustration. I look at it as we're in an industry of adjustments."

What makes the Milliner situation unusual, and potentially harmful for the Jets, is that the former Alabama standout missed the entire offseason as he recovered from March shoulder surgery.

The Jets believe he will be an impact player, but they haven't seen him on the field. Milliner attended meetings in the offseason, so he should be up to speed from a mental standpoint, according to Ryan. But his physical condition is a mystery.

"I guess we'll see when he shows up," Ryan said.

Aside from quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, Milliner will be the most scrutinized player on the team. He's replacing one of the best defensive players in the NFL, when healthy, the foundation of Ryan's man-to-man scheme.

Pace, echoing the sentiment of the coaches, said it will take a collaborative effort to replace Revis. He also said Ryan's scheme will help the transition, claiming, "The beauty of our system is you just plug guys in."

Antonio Cromartie, coming off a Pro Bowl season, will assume Revis' role, covering the opponents' No. 1 receiver. Former first-round pick Kyle Wilson, a career backup, is the other starter, but likely will return to his nickel-back job once Milliner is ready to start. On Friday, the Jets lost some depth when Aaron Berry suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Ryan is accustomed to missing cornerbacks: Revis missed the entire 2010 preseason in a nasty holdout. Ryan said that bothered him more than the Milliner situation.

"That was a lot of my frustration, that we had a player under contract and he wasn't there," Ryan said. "Here, this is business. It's not the first time a player isn't here because he hasn't signed his contract."

Out of sight, out of mind, according to Thurman.

"It's not about who's not here," he said. "It's about who's here."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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