Rod Woodson knows what injured Darrelle Revis is going through
As he was being carted away from the Sun Life Stadium field, Darrelle Revis leaned forward and covered his face with his right hand.
On that oppressively humid afternoon in Miami, we all knew the Jets' season had irrevocably changed. And so did Revis.
Their All-Pro cornerback has remained far removed from the media's glare since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last Sunday's 23-20 overtime win. But there is one man who can speak to Revis' current state of mind -- and the emotional roller coaster that awaits him after surgery.
Before there was any mention of Revis Island, there was Rod Woodson.
In his prime, he was the litmus test for defensive backs. And as of right now, he's the only NFL player to return from major knee surgery in the same season.
A day before Rex Ryan floated the idea of saving Revis' roster spot for an unlikely Super Bowl run, Woodson was on the phone with Newsday for almost a half-hour Thursday, recalling his appearance in Super Bowl XXX -- 19 weeks after ACL surgery -- and the likelihood of Revis returning to his shutdown ways.
"He can be the Darrelle Revis that we all are used to seeing on the football field," Woodson said in a phone interview from his home in Pleasanton, Calif. "The question is, if he doesn't play to that standard . . . he's going to be measured.
"Great players are measured by their great performances. Can he come back and be that guy? I think he can. But you've got to put the commitment in."
Woodson -- who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (2009) and named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time team -- did just that after suffering the same knee injury in the Steelers' first game of the 1995 season against Detroit.
Replays of Revis in Week 3 instantly caused Woodson to recall the moment he unsuccessfully tried to tackle Lions running back Barry Sanders. As soon as Woodson planted his foot in the turf field, "I could feel my leg shifting," he said. It wasn't a sharp or "devastating" pain, but the "pop" he felt in his knee joint told him it wasn't good.
Former coach Bill Cowher "dangled a carrot" in front of him, preserving his roster spot in hopes the Steelers would reach the Super Bowl. They didn't have the luxury of the Reserved/Injured rule, which was implemented this season and allows teams to designate one player eligible to return the same season. But unlike Revis, Woodson had more time and a better team on his side.
"I still had a light at the end of the tunnel," said Woodson, whose Steelers lost to the Cowboys, 27-17, in Super Bowl XXX. "Our team was good enough, and I knew that.
"I'm the only one that was given the opportunity to do it," he said, adding that it's unfortunately "too late for Revis. I think given the opportunities, guys can come back."
Woodson's four-month recovery is "an anomaly," according to Dr. Ronald Grelsamer, an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The usual timetable for returning from such an injury is one year, he said, and six months if it's an accelerated program. He said four months would be "pushing the envelope."
"There's a difference between being able to do something and is it a good idea?" Grelsamer said. "I call it the Bo Jackson syndrome. He had hip replacement and, as a result, he was able to play professional baseball. Now the fact is, his hip fell apart. So even though he was able to, in retrospect, it really wasn't such a good idea."
Ryan said there is a "0.0002 percent chance" of Revis being able to return for a Super Bowl. The Jets are expected to put Revis on season-ending injured reserve after his surgery in two to three weeks. And the harsh reality of his situation will hit the cornerback when he's on the couch, away from his teammates and the game he loves, Woodson said, "because that's what you live for. It's in their DNA."
And he has no doubt Revis will grapple with the same questions he did ("Why me? Why now? What could I have done to prevent this?") and the same insecurities ("When I come back, can I play at the same level?").
"You're not going to say it to the public, you're not going to say it to the media, you might not even tell your friends or your family," said Woodson, 47, who, in his 17-year career, was an 11-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro selection and Super Bowl champion with the Ravens in 2001. "But I know internally, those things are thought about.
"And when he comes back, he's going to be compared to the old Revis before the injury. And those things have to weigh on your mind, knowing that the media, especially in New York, are going to be on him."
For years, Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium declared "Rod is God." But now Revis is "the benchmark of what corners want to be," said Woodson, now a college football analyst for Dial Global Sports. And that's why he believes Revis' absence could be devastating for the Jets (2-1).
"You're not going to replace a Revis with a Kyle Wilson. [Antonio] Cromartie's not close to Revis," he said. "And I heard they're bringing over the running back, Joe McKnight, to have him play DB. He's going to get ate up.
"Joe McKnight is barely making the roster on the offensive side and now we're going to move him over to DB? It's just ludicrous."
Woodson suggested that the Jets put Cromartie on each opponent's second-best receiver and roll coverage to the No. 1 wideout -- a tactic Jets secondary coach Dennis Thurman said the Cowboys employed with Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders. But Thurman added that the Jets aren't looking to "protect Kyle."
"Part of the evaluation process for us is: 'Can this guy go in and help us win?' " he said. "If he can, you keep him. If he can't, you push him out.
"You're not looking for that guy to necessarily play at the level of a Darrelle, but he can't be that big of a fall- off."