FOXBOROUGH — By inducting Ty Law into the Patriots Hall of Fame, the team honored a dominant cornerback who used to wear No. 24 during their run of three Super Bowl championships in four years from 2001-2004.
On Friday, several defensive backs from those championship days were heaping praise on the new No. 24, Darrelle Revis.
Never mind the constant comparisons of both men hailing from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, or that both men dominate in man coverage on an opposing team's No. 1 receiver. Revis and Law are different players with similar styles, but former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison got right to the heart of the matter.
"He's gonna choke you at the line of scrimmage, he can play left, he can play right," he said after Ty Law's induction ceremony. "All this talk about Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, who's the best cornerback? The best cornerback on the planet is right here in New England, and he will prove it this year."
Revis was regarded as the best cornerback in the league for years before he tore his ACL in 2011, ending his season. He struggled in his first year back after surgery. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Revis played in a zone scheme that did not truly fit his skill set as a shutdown man cover cornerback.
Meanwhile, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has emerged as a talented cornerback who thinks he is the best and isn't afraid to shout it from a mountaintop.
Revis was a bit more humble when approached about Harrison calling him the best cornerback in the game.
"I don't even have words for that," he said. "I respect those guys so much. I've grown up watching them — watching Ty, learning from Ty, seeing Rodney play as well. ... It's great, man. I'm just trying to play the best ball I can and play at a high level and that's why I love to play this game, just play at a high level and compete."
During their run as a dynasty, the Patriots ranked in the top 10 in passing touchdowns allowed and in defensive passer rating each time they won the Super Bowl. Those were some potent pass defenses.
Now that Revis and Brandon Browner have joined forces to form one of the most formidable secondaries in the NFL, there's a feeling that this secondary can be just as good — or better than — those units. Whether that's setting an expectation or creating pressure, Revis isn't letting on.
"There's always pressure for us as NFL players, by going out and just playing every Sunday," he said. "Those guys are legends, they're definitely legends. I respect all of those guys. I think one thing that you look at is you just try to enjoy this moment. Guys got honored today and you just enjoyed their success and what they do and go from there. You don't really want to try to compare the two teams together. I mean, they had great teams when they played. The only thing we can control right now as a team is finish up training camp strong and get ready and get prepared for the year."
It's becoming increasingly difficult to play solid man coverage without drawing penalties in today's NFL game, but the Seahawks proved it can be done in 2013 when they rode their dominant secondary to a Super Bowl championship. If that's the blueprint, the Patriots have followed it well, on their way to a hopeful bid for their fourth championship and their first in a decade.
If the Patriots are going to finish the 2014 season as the best team on the planet, "the best cornerback on the planet" is likely to play a huge role.