On October 16, 2012 Darrelle Revis underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. The surgery was reportedly a success, and Revis is now working hard on rehabilitating his knee.
The question now is not only if and when can Revis come back, but how good he will be when he returns.
A national study that appeared in the American Journal of Sports Medicine 6 years ago analyzed ACL injuries in NFL running backs and wide receivers, a group that physically would be similar to Revis in NFL bodily demands. A total of 31 players and 33 ACL injuries were analyzed. The results are sobering for Jets fans hoping for a full Revis recovery.
The study found that 21 percent of all players who had an ACL injury never returned to NFL action. Among the remaining 79 percent it took anywhere from 9 to 12 months to recover.
The study also determined that performance after surgery fell by more than 30%. The study cited "knee pain, stiffness, loss of strength, deconditioning and reduced proprioception (the sense of knowing where your leg is)" as major reasons why a player would suffer a post-injury decline in production.
Based on that study, there appears to be a roughly 1 in 5 chance that we will never see Revis in the Jets or any other NFL lineup again. Assuming he does return to action, we might expect Revis back in the lineup anywhere from mid July (i.e., all of training camp) all the way to mid October (right before the trade deadline).
Two recent cases provide further guidance as to what we might expect in terms of the Revis rehabilitation process.
In the first case, Adrian Peterson, we see an example of a full recovery on a remarkably quick timetable. Peterson had surgery on December 30, 2011 and began running only 3 months later, in the first week of April, 2012. He was back with the team in training camp and back in the starting lineup on Opening Day, only 8 months after surgery. Peterson went on to have an historic season, his best ever, and one of the greatest seasons any NFL running back has ever had. However, it is evident from his early performances that Peterson was not quite himself through the first 6 games of the season. Over the first 6 games Peterson ran for 499 yards on 113 carries, an average of 4.4 ypc and a little over 80 yards per game. Good, but hardly up to his usual standards. Then he exploded, amassing 1598 yards on 235 carries over the last 10 games, a ridiculous 6.8 ypc and 160 yards per game. It took Peterson only 8 months to get back into the starting lineup, but it took him almost 10 months to get back to full strength.
The second recent case I looked at was NY Knicks guard Iman Shumpert. Shumpert underwent ACL surgery on May 2, 2012. 7 months later, he is still sidelined, and just returned to limited basketball related activities this past week. He is likely 6-8 weeks away from returning to the Knicks lineup, meaning his recovery from surgery to reappearing in the lineup will have taken approximately 9 months, a month longer than Peterson.
What does all this imply for Revis' recovery? First, it is unlikely we will hear of Revis beginning to run before February, at the earliest. If he slips to March with this stage, it will not be unexpected. However, if April rolls around and Revis is still not running, it is probably time to begin worrying. Given this timetable, there is almost no hope of any accurate evaluation of Revis' chances of returning 100% to form prior to the late April 2013 draft, so anyone thinking the Jets can trade Revis for 2013 draft picks is almost certain to be disappointed.
The next step will be returning to practice. That is likely to occur 6-8 weeks prior to returning to the Jets lineup. If Revis follows the aggressive 9 month timetable, then we can expect to see him back in the lineup sometime around the start of Training Camp. However, don't be surprised. particularly if no contract extension has been signed by then, to see Revis decline to take part in camp, citing his injury as the reason and thereby staging a de facto holdout, without jeopardizing his right to cancel the remaining years of his contract.
It would not be surprising to see Revis miss all of training camp due to his rehabilitation process and/or his unhappiness with his contract situation. However, if he misses the start of the season alarm bells should start going off. Revis needs to play to maximize his earning potential in his walk year. He needs to show he is back to 100%. But there is no guarantee he will be back to 100%. If his rehab lasts 12 months instead of 9, then Revis will not return to the field until mid October, just prior to the trading deadline. If this is the way it plays out, there will be almost no chance for other teams to evaluate Revis' recovery, and trading him would therefore be out of the question. If the deadline passes without trading Revis, and he remains unsigned, the Jets then lose nearly all of their leverage, as Revis has only to wait 3 more months before he is a free agent. If he is able to show himself to be 100% before the end of the season, Revis will likely have played his last game as a Jet. If, on the other hand, he is still not 100%, the Jets will face an agonizing choice. His failure to fully recover will make Revis more affordable, but at the same time it will make signing him a much bigger risk. At that point, the ball will be in the Jets' court, and we will see who blinks first in a high stakes poker game in which neither party may be fully aware of the cards they are holding.
It's going to be an interesting year for Revis and the Jets. April (should be running by then), July (should be playing by then), October (should know if he's 100% by then) and November (trading deadline) provide mile markers to track Revis' progress, as well as the chances of the Jets retaining Revis for the long term.The time for decisions by Revis and the Jets is rapidly approaching. It appears both parties will be laboring under that famous curse, "May you live in interesting times."