- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- When Rex Ryan finally got a chance to meet with Darrelle Revis last Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- after a previously unsuccessful drive-by in New Jersey -- the New York Jets' coach acted like he was on vacation.
"He was smiling like he took a trip to Disney World," Revis said Monday after officially ending his 36-day holdout, signing a four-year, $46 million contract.
Ultimately, Ryan came home with a souvenir.
It was a tense and heated negotiation -- Ryan threw a self-described "tantrum" Sunday night -- but the Jets welcomed Revis back to their team with applause, hugs and good-natured razzing. The star cornerback admitted to having butterflies when he strolled on the field late in practice and was greeted with a "Rudy" clap, that slow clap made famous in the inspirational movie. His teammates also chanted his name.
"It was hurting me so bad," Revis said of his holdout. "I didn't know how my teammates would accept me when I came back because I wasn't there in training camp. I was in the news every other day, and I'm sure they were tired of hearing my name."
After reconnecting with his teammates, Revis retreated to an upstairs board room, where he signed his new contract. The deal includes $32 million in guarantees, including $7.5 million in total 2010 compensation, according to league sources. It culminated a seven-month odyssey that began when the Jets told Revis after the season they wanted to rework his contract, and included two secret negotiation sessions at the Roscoe Diner in upstate New York.
According to a source, language in the contract dissuades Revis from holding out again. The source said the contract is technically a seven-year deal, but if Revis doesn't hold out through 2013, the final three years are voided and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If Revis does hold out, it would remain a seven-year deal, and he'd make $9 million total over those final three years.
According to the source, there's also language in the deal that prohibits the Jets from using the franchise tag or transition tag when the contract is up.
But for now, the black cloud over the Jets is gone. Now they can get on with the business of trying to reach the Super Bowl. There was relief in every corner of the building, from the locker room to Ryan's office.
"There was an energy in the building and on this team when we knew Darrelle was coming back," Ryan said.
Nose tackle Kris Jenkins felt the energy.
"The stress is gone," Jenkins said. "My pupils are actually starting to dilate a little bit. It's a natural high right now. I feel so much better because it takes a lot of pressure off us. We're just happy he's back. We're happy we've got our team back."
Revis will be on the practice field Tuesday, and he will be in the starting lineup when the Jets open the season Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. He arrived at the Jets' facility around 1 p.m. after an early-morning flight from Ft. Lauderdale, appearing emotionally drained after a long night and a sometimes acrimonious negotiation.
"This experience humbled me very much," said Revis, who passed the time during his holdout at his homes in Ft. Lauderdale, New Jersey and Aliquippa, Pa.
Actually, Ryan, frustrated by the lack of progress in negotiations, showed up recently at Revis' New Jersey home, hoping for a sitdown. But his best defensive player wasn't home. Last Friday, he and owner Woody Johnson decided to fly to Ft. Lauderdale, hoping to break the ice.
According to Revis, the coach told him, "We need to get you up there. We need to win the Super Bowl."
In that meeting, which lasted three hours, Johnson and Ryan discussed financial parameters, including a 10-year contract. Johnson believes the fast-approaching season opener convinced Revis to soften his stance. He also said they talked to Revis about his legacy in football.
"We talked about the Hall of Fame, how important it is to keep it on the right track," said Johnson, adding, "Hall of Fame and 'Darrelle Revis' aren't a strange pair."
All parties said they left the meeting with a renewed sense of optimism. But early Sunday evening, the talks almost broke off. Ryan blew a fuse, screaming into a speaker phone at Revis' agents.
"It's kind of like a boyfriend-girlfriend thing, but the parents won't let you get together," Ryan said. "That was kind of how I felt. He wanted to play. I wanted him to play, but for some reason it wasn't happening."
Said Jon Feinsod, one of Revis' agents: "Rex got a little upset with us. He told us he was going to go coach his football team and that he was sick and tired of us."
Several players admitted they didn't think a deal would get done before the start of the season. As linebacker Bart Scott said, "I was preparing myself to go to the game without him."
Added Scott, "He's a tremendous player who allows us to do a lot of things, allows us to open up our playbook a little bit."
Revis came off his demand to be the league's highest-paid cornerback. Before training camp, he was adamant about receiving $16 million per year, topping the Oakland Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha ($15.1 million average). The Jets weren't going to go that high, but they satisfied Revis with $32 million in guarantees.
Revis said he's in great shape, but he admitted he's not in football shape. Nevertheless, he expects to play the entire game against Baltimore. He already has been studying tape of wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
"He makes our job a lot easier," Ryan said. "Mike Pettine and I, we're better coaches now. Dennis Thurman is a better coach today than he was yesterday. He allows us to do things on defense that we probably couldn't do if he wasn't with us."
Now the Jets get back to football after what Revis described as an eye-opening experience. He was surprised to see "how nasty it can get."
A big contract can ease the nasty.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
1dEric D. Williams