TAMPA — Dealing with a groin injury for the first time in his seven-year NFL career, Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis said he won’t know for sure whether he’s playing against Carolina until Sunday morning.
Revis was sidelined during the second half of last week’s 24-21 victory at Detroit with a groin strain, and he has been limited in practice as Tampa Bay prepares for Sunday’s matchup at Bank of America Stadium against the NFL’s hottest team.
“I wish I could control injuries,’’ Revis said Friday. “When I feel ready to go, that’s when it’s time for me to go out and play. It’ll probably be a game-time decision. I probably have to get out there a little earlier and try to run and see how I feel when I cut and move. It’s way better. It was a strained muscle, and luckily it wasn’t anything serious.’’
Playing for the Jets, Revis suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 last year, but he hasn’t missed a game this season. He is listed as questionable against the Panthers, who have reeled off a seven-game winning streak to challenge New Orleans atop the NFC South.
The Bucs have won three in a row after an 0-8 start, escaping the division basement.
“Like I said, a win cures everything,’’ Revis said. “Once we got our first win, I felt guys were getting comfortable to know how to win. It’ll be good to knock them off. They’re playing light’s-out, (Carolina QB) Cam Newton is playing great and they’re rolling. We’re not shying down. We feel we can beat this team and get the fourth win under our belt.’’
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy and OLB Lavonte David have emerged in the past two seasons as elite performers.
A year after making the Pro Bowl, McCoy leads Tampa Bay with 6.0 sacks and 13 QB hits, establishing himself as a consistent disruptive force inside. David is well on his way to topping the Bucs in tackles for the second consecutive year and he also leads the team in stops for loss (14), adding five sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
Despite Tampa Bay’s struggles, both young players are starting to be appreciated on a national level.
“Early in his career, (McCoy) had a couple of season-ending injuries,’’ defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. “He’s so talented and so overpowering, both in run defense and the pass rush. What he’s done for us the whole season is as impressive as probably anybody else you’re going to see on film playing in the interior defensive line.
“Lavonte probably isn’t as well-recognized nationally, but I guarantee he is around the league for the teams that have played against us. When we try to give out game balls, he’d be a candidate every week.’’
Maturing as a team leader, Newton is also changing his ways off the field.
Newton has directed the Panthers to an 8-3 record, and he credits part of his success this fall on a new regimen.
“Since March, I’ve given up meat and chicken and just been sticking with fish,’’ Newton said. “I like the way it made me feel as far as eating, me being alert, me having a lot of energy and me not feeling sluggish. It’s very challenging.’’
Newton won the 2010 Heisman Trophy at Auburn, and he will undoubtedly monitor what he is eating while viewing today’s Alabama-Auburn matchup.
“The Iron Bowl is the best rivalry in all of sports,’’ he said. “The last time I checked, all the national championships in the last four years came out of the state of Alabama.’’
The Bucs are 4-20 in the past three seasons when their opponents score first. ... In 21 career games against Tampa Bay, Panthers WR Steve Smith has 95 catches for 1,353 yards and six touchdowns. ... Carolina K Graham Gano has already established a franchise record with six field goals of 50 yards or longer this season. Gano also leads the NFL in touchback percentage (78.2), with only 12 of his 55 kickoffs being returned.