Standing in the Jets locker room for Monday’s media period, we were all waiting for players to come out of their video study and corrections meetings. Most players rushed in to grab their belongings before hustling out. But one man seemed to be soaking in every minute in the locker room.
It’s been a month since Pace has seen the inside of a locker room and it’s been killing him. Banned for the first four games for violating the NFL’s Policy on Performance Enhancing Substances, his first day to return to the Jets Training Facility at Florham Park was Monday and he was the happiest man in the building.
He was all to eager to share what time away from the game does to someone. It made him appreciate every aspect of being an NFL player. For some, the Monday film review is one of he harder days of the week, spent in classrooms reviewing what went right and wrong the day before. For Pace it marked his return to a defense that’s been having a lot of fun without him.
This defense was built to harass the quarterback and has been doing that rather effectively the first month of the season. Now they get their best pass rusher back. Pace was second on the team last year with seven sacks and there’s no reason he can’t surpass that mark in the 12 games he has left in the regular season.
His last four Sundays were being spent like most fans … on the couch with the family watching football. The days of the week were a little more rigorous. He spent one week in Las Vegas working with an MMA trainer to improve his hand speed, footwork and leverage. The outside linebacker playfully boasted that his ring record while in Vegas was a perfect 14-0, but it’s clear his training was meant to improve his football skills. Pace hopes the training he gained in the ring will make him a better pass rusher when he hits the field once again.
Pace says this experience humbled him. This past weekend humbled some of the Jets, too. So Pace is on the same page mentally right now. And physically he’s not been beat up for four weeks. Still, the time away made him reflect on how much he and maybe all the players need to appreciate the charmed life of an NFL player these days.
Back in the 1920s, football drew crowds because it was almost a novelty sport. Red Grange took the league by storm in that decade, making an astronomical $12,000 a game. That averages out to $2.3 million in modern era money. Ironic that Pace chose to train with an MMA fighter because like the MMA, football back then was a barnstorming tour of violent collisions meant to make the fans ooh and ahh. Since then this has turned into the biggest sport in America. This nation can’t get enough of the NFL, and Pace is one of the current players who gets that.
This week was a reality check for some Jets players who believed they were unbeatable. At least one Jet got a month-long reality check and is grateful for every minute spent on the field.
Tags: Calvin Pace
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