Who is the best current defender in all of team sports? ESPN The Magazine takes on that question this month in its "Best in Sports" issue and senior writer Shaun Assael gives the nod to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“They didn’t give me a trophy. They’re putting me in the magazine,” said Revis last week at a photo shoot at the Home of the Jets. “It’s a great honor. I appreciate ESPN reaching out to me, and thinking of me as the top defensive player in all of team sports is great.”
Revis, who will turn 25 next month, was named runnerup behind Packers CB Charles Woodson in the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting and the AFC Defensive Player of the Year at the NFL 101 Awards. The Curtis Martin Team MVP had six interceptions (one returned for a score) and an NFL-high 34 passes defensed for the league’s No. 1 unit in both points allowed (14.8 per game) and pass defense (153.7 ypg).
“There are a lot of things going on that I’m getting into off the field. It’s great,” he said when asked about the love he’s gotten recently from both ESPN and The Sporting News. “You have to enjoy it, don’t put any pressure on yourself and have fun. I’m living a dream and this is what I always wanted to be — the top corner in the NFL — and now stay on top.”
An outstanding basketball player at Aliquippa High School in Pittsburgh, Revis turned to the NBA when asked who he thought were some of the best individual defenders in team sports.
“I like [Lakers forward] Ron Artest and how he defends. He did a great job trying to shut down some of the best scorers in the NBA,” said the man who led his high school to back-to-back WPIAL AA championships and averaged 22.8 points a game his senior season. “[Trevor] Ariza from the Rockets. As far as NFL guys, [Raiders CB] Nnamdi Asomugha, and Asante Samuel is always up there in interceptions, Julius Peppers does a great job, Dwight Freeney, Charles Woodson.
"There are a lot of guys out there."
But Assael says nobody’s better than Revis. After posing for a bunch of shots, Revis looked up at the four enormous videoboards at the new stadium and saw images of him displayed in all corners.
“This is not Darrelle Revis Day, is it? This is great. The stadium is lovely. We practiced here last week and I got a chance to get a feel for the new turf. This is unbelievable,” he said. “Everything is happening for this organization. In the past, there were struggles with a lot of bad seasons. But we have the right guys in here and we have the right coach in here. We’re doing a great job with the new stadium. Everything is just clicking the right way and this is the way to build a championship-type organization.”
Reed’s Status Bears Watching
In exactly 11 weeks, the Jets and the Ravens will play the first nationally televised game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Baltimore’s sure to be a formidable foe, but what will the health of all-world safety Ed Reed be on Sept. 13?
The 5’11”, 200-pound Reed contemplated retirement before electing for surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip this offseason. In a recent interview on Sirius Mad Dog Radio, Reed said his rehabilitation should take four to six months.
“I want to be ready for the first game, but I don’t know how soon that would happen, how soon I would be back,” Reed said. “You know, we’re gonna continue to do the things to try and get back and at least play this year for the fans, man, cause they’ve been hounding me, man.”
A gamechanger, Reed has 46 career regular-season interceptions and he’s returned six for scores. Despite playing hurt in last year’s postseason, he collected a pick each off of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
"It's still a long, slow process, you know, and I try to do some stuff to strengthen it right now and I know it's just weak but I mean, yeah, I had to have reconstructive surgery," he said. "They had to go in and reconstruct my whole hip. They took about six or seven inches from my IT band, replaced my labrum that I tore. They went in in two spots, so I mean it's a slow process. Plus I have other injuries that, you know, really probably had an effect on causing this that I have to pay attention to also. So I'm just taking my time.”