LAKE BUENA VISTA — Once the Buccaneers ditched their $16 million man in March, Darrelle Revis attracted plenty of suitors.
In the end, only one really mattered.
Appearing at the Drew Brees Passing Academy this week outside of Orlando, Revis joked that “a lot of us got fired,’’ in Tampa when the roster was churned over by the new brain trust of head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht.
He said it with a chuckle, not with any discernible rancor, and now Revis is a Patriot, eager to resume his place atop the NFL’s cornerback hierarchy. Before Seattle’s Richard Sherman was issuing postgame rants and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson was swiping passes in the desert, it was Revis who set the standard for an unforgiving position.
Now, he’s ready to prove he still has the market cornered.
“I’m really excited,’’ said Revis, whose contract with New England pays $12 million in 2014 and a possible $20 million is 2015. “I went down a list of teams where I thought I could win and New England kind of stuck out for me. It’s been great and I can’t wait for training camp.’’
Revis said his left knee is back to 100 percent, 20 months following surgery to repair a torn ACL. Although he was not at full strength last season in Tampa, Revis still earned Pro Bowl honors while playing far less press coverage than he was accustomed to with the Jets.
“They work their butts off in New England,’’ Revis said. “As soon as you get into the offseason program, it’s non-stop. They want to be winners. They know what I can bring to the table and at the same time, we want to win. As a Jet, we had a rivalry with (the Patriots) and from the outside looking in, I looked at them differently.
“We respected them, but you want to beat them. Inside looking out now, I’ve got way more respect because I’m there. I get to see everything, how it operates every day.’’
Revis turns 29 in a few weeks and will be suiting up for his third team in three seasons.
In one significant way, Revis and Deion Sanders have enjoyed parallel NFL careers. Sanders played for five clubs in 14 seasons before landing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
You can call them mercenaries, but both defined the cornerback position and Revis is still approaching his prime years.
“There’s stuff that’s a given against other teams that aren’t a given working against Darrelle,’’ said Brees, who isn’t shedding any tears now that Revis is out of the NFC South. “And something that works in the first quarter against him isn’t going to work in the third quarter. You have to be on top of your game.’’
In New England, Revis is replacing former Buc Aqib Talib as Bill Belichick’s primary shutdown corner. Talib did a good job for the Patriots, but injuries at key moments raised questions about his durability.
After seven pro seasons and more money than he could have ever dreamed about while growing up in Aliquippa, Pa., Revis appears driven. His game plan is to keep on pilfering passes until he has his arms wrapped around that Vince Lombardi Trophy.
And he knows just the man to help him get there.
“Now I don’t have to see Tom (Brady) standing on the other side anymore,’’ Revis said. “Only in training camp. But we’ll be wearing the same jersey on Sundays, so that’s good.’’