TAMPA — The Buccaneers were just beginning to focus in on Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks as their first choice in the NFL draft last April when Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano called MSU coach Dan Mullen for a scouting report.
“When I spoke to Dan before the draft he told me, 'Greg, that is my guy and he's just a good football player,' ” Schiano said. “And then he said, 'Look, he may not be the fastest guy, but he will step up when you need him to.' ”
Banks certainly stepped up in a time of need on Sunday, covering Lions wideout Calvin Johnson after Darrelle Revis left the game just before halftime with a groin strain. Bannks might have to step up again this Sunday, as well.
Though not as bad the Bucs feared, Revis' groin strain forced him to miss Wednesday's workout at One Buc Place and Schiano might not know until game time at Carolina whether Revis will be available against the Panthers.
“He's going to be day-to-day, so that should kind of tell you that it's not real bad,'' Schiano said. “But will he play Sunday? I don't know. We have to figure that out. That's why he's day-to-day.''
Revis took the field for the morning walkthrough portion of the Bucs' workout, but did not actually practice. He refused to comment on either his health or his status for Sunday's game.
He instead referred all questions to Banks, who sits next to Revis in the locker room. The uncertainty surrounding Revis, Banks said, won't necessarily force him to alter his preparation.
“With Darrelle being here, I usually just kind of watch (the opponent's) second (receiver),'' Banks said. “But I do try to study everybody, because you never know. Something may happen like it did last week. So, I'll probably just keep my same study habits.''
Those study habits were good enough to help make Banks one of the stars of the 24-21 victory at Detroit. After Revis was hurt, Banks made two key plays while covering Johnson.
The first was a pass breakup. The second, which came after Johnson caught three of the four passes thrown his way, was an interception that allowed the Bucs to seal their victory.
Revis spent the majority of the second half of that game giving Banks tips on how to defend Johnson. Banks will seek advice on how to defend Panthers lead pass catcher Steve Smith if the need arises.
Banks, though, is no stranger to Smith.
“I played against him a little bit the last time we played them,'' Banks said, referring to Tampa Bay's 31-13 loss to Carolina on Oct. 24 at Raymond James Stadium. “He's definitely a great competitor.
“He's one the better receivers in this league and probably one of the most underrated receivers in this league. So, it will be a challenge again, because he's a physical guy. He's a small guy, but he's physical. Either way, I'll be ready.''
No matter who winds up covering Smith, he will have some help he didn't have last week.
Safety Dashon Goldson and middle linebacker Mason Foster will be back for the Panthers game after missing the Lions game because of a suspension and concussion, respectively.
That has the potential to bring back a sense of normalcy to the Bucs' defense, but the potential absence of Revis already has Tampa Bay contemplate some changes to the defensive scheme.
“There are certain matchups we will do with (Revis),” Schiano said. “Will we do them without him? I don't know. Again, that's a decision we'll have to make.
“But we'll have to have plenty of contingencies because (Revis could get hurt) on the first play of the game, as well. But if he can go, he can go. I think that's the way it will be.''
The Bucs realized at halftime last week that Revis wasn't going to be able to go for the second half against the Lions. It was only after putting some thought into it, though, that they decided to replace Revis with Banks.
“It wasn't an easy decision,'' Schiano said. “We talked about it and, as a matter of fact, we took the field thinking we'd just play right and left (cornerbacks) and whoever got (Johnson) got him.
“But then we got on the field and it was just a gut feeling that, let's get Johnthan on him. And Johnthan was coming off a (shoulder) injury, so it's not like he had a full week of practice. But sometimes you just get a feeling about a guy.''