Darrelle Revis endlessly pursues perfection
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The purple spiral notebook is a diary of sorts for all of Darrelle Revis' secrets.
It's where the All-Pro Jets cornerback keeps his own set of scouting reports, notes on everything from quarterback tendencies to receiver reads to body language.
The images on his TV screen become blurred as he rewinds the footage "three or four times," scouring for more clues. Long after the Jets' group video sessions have ended at their training facility, Revis, 26, is back in his Livingston, N.J., home watching game tape on his PlayStation.
The security of his four-year, $46-million contract with $32 million guaranteed -- the result of last year's well-publicized 35-day holdout -- hasn't altered his tenacity or focus. There's plenty of talent in the NFL, but it's a combination of his athleticism, preparation and pride that separates Revis from the rest.
"You've got to want it more than the next guy. And I think that's what gives him an edge," his uncle, former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, said by phone from his Charlotte, N.C., home. "He's hungry and he wants it more."
Tuesday nights are Revis' time to get an "identity" for an opposing offense. Within that designated hour, he scribbles myriad observations, and his preparation only intensifies as the week goes on.
Each season brings a new notebook. And this year, it's a purple one. Yes, purple.
"What? What's wrong with purple?" he asked, laughing in between bites of his spaghetti.
Though willing to discuss the specifics of his study habits during a two-hour late lunch in a quiet restaurant in northern New Jersey, Revis guards access to his private tape sessions with the same dogged determination he uses to blanket opposing receivers.
Revis has seen that preparation pay off over the years, evidenced by the hefty contract he signed last year.
But even that came at a price.
We don't want you
The death threats came without warning two summers ago, flooding John Geiger's inbox and Twitter timeline. Geiger is Revis' business manager and housemate, and the contract impasse between his best friend and the Jets had reached contentious heights. Fans with the misguided impression that Geiger also was Revis' agent made their frustrations known in the most public of forums.
The most antagonistic exchange Geiger encountered occurred in a Philadelphia airport when a man approached him and said: "Your buddy is a stingy [expletive]." Geiger said he tried to ignore the stranger, but the man wasn't fooled. "No, I know who you are," he said. "And you're both [expletives] for ruining the game."
At the time, Revis remained secluded in South Florida but the harsh words found their way to him, too. "I was getting death threats, people on Twitter were saying, 'We don't want you on the team no more' . . . 'Go somewhere else, we don't care if you play for us,' " he said. "I didn't do nothing wrong."
Even his agents, Neil Schwartz and Jon Feinsod, weren't immune to the criticisms, Revis said, but the four-year deal completed just before the start of the 2010 regular season all but eradicated the hostility.
The hungry man eats
Some have called it the play that saved the Jets' season.
He tried to downplay his two interceptions in Monday night's 24-6 win over Miami, including his 100-yard touchdown return -- the longest in Jets history. But Revis' backward stroll into the end zone was more than just a momentum-changer. It was a reminder to those who may have forgotten just how dangerous he can be.
The debate rages on -- most recently on WFAN's The Mike Francesa Show -- over whether Revis "mugged" Marshall on the play and should have been flagged for pass interference. But Revis again showed he's a shutdown corner, abruptly ending the interview by hanging up on the well-known radio host.
Revis, the AFC defensive player of the week, has 18 tackles (13 solo), seven passes defended, three interceptions and one touchdown in six games this season.
"Each week is a whole new slate, and that's how we approach it. So you can't carry over what you did last week," Gilbert said. "You've got to get hungry again and you've got to become aggressive. Our theory is: The hungry man eats. And if you're not hungry, you don't eat."
Philip Rivers will be the next quarterback to take on the Jets as the Chargers visit MetLife Stadium Sunday. And like Miami's Matt Moore, he'll have to decide if it's worth the risk of throwing into Revis Island. Moore completed only five of the 14 passes he threw against Revis.
"I think you have to have respect for him and you have to be smart," Rivers said of Revis, who likely will be matched with Chargers star receiver Vincent Jackson. "You have to be smart with all those guys back there, but certainly, Revis is an impressive player."
To his teammates, Revis is more than impressive.
"I've never seen anyone be that consistent," safety Jim Leonhard said. "When you go out there against the best receivers in the league, week in and week out, knowing that you're not going to get a whole lot of help, it takes a special person to do that."
Competition is what fuels Revis.
Even when he fails to hold a receiver under 100 yards -- as was the case when Wes Welker totaled 124 yards on five catches in New England's Week 5 win over the Jets -- Revis still is having fun. But it's the "All-Star battles" with former NFL receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens that he misses. "It don't get no better than that," Revis said. "Top receiver. Top DB. Man coverage. I wish they could still play because they do play great football."
Almost two years have passed since Revis called each of them a "slouch," but to this day, he stands by his assessment. Perhaps that's why he's able to shrug off the criticisms of others, such as Miami's Vontae Davis, who said the Dolphins possess the best cornerback tandem in the league. Or Jacksonville receiver Jason Hill, who suggested Revis and the Jets were overhyped just days before he was inactive for their Week 2 matchup.
"And then in pregame he's going to come up to Rex [Ryan] and try to apologize, like, 'Oh, I didn't mean it like that. They took it out of context,' " Revis said in a mocking tone. "Whatever, man. Rex was mic'd that day. And he [Hill] didn't play. That's like somebody saying they're going to show the world they can fly but then they don't have no wings."
He's the best
The sheet of paper still serves as a daily remainder.
The list of season goals remains in Revis' bedroom, just as it has in years past. Last year, he jotted down 50-plus tackles, eight interceptions, a Pro Bowl selection and, of course, a Super Bowl ring. However, he was reticent about sharing this year's benchmarks.
"I can't tell you that. That's only for me. What you need to know is, they're set high," Revis said with a playful smile. "And some of these goals I'm probably not going to reach because I don't get the ball thrown to me that much. So I've got to make sure I'm doing other things that I have on the piece of paper: being a leader, making sure I'm being consistent in my job, making sure I'm playing great football."
If you ask his teammates, Revis already has achieved those things. "He's the best in the league," Sanchez said.
But the two-time first-team All-Pro and 2009 AFC Defensive Player of the Year still is a work in progress, according to his uncle.
"He's got a great supporting cast around him between myself, his mother, his coaches, and I think a lot of that is what helps him excel," Gilbert said. "The family's always trying to encourage him and then at the same time holding him accountable."
It took Ryan less than one season as Jets coach to call Revis the best defensive player in the NFL, but Revis prefers to let his play speak for itself.
"Everybody works hard in this league. I can't sit here and say I'm the hardest-working dude in the NFL," Revis said. "I just know what I do works for me."
Listen to Darrelle Revis' interview with Mike Francesa in the audio player embedded below, then below that, watch the final moments the YES simulcast.
Now here's the visual version.