Sometimes all you can do when hit by the shock of the new is just smile, thank your lucky stars that you’re still around, put your head down and plow forward.
Kind of like Calvin Pace.
What’s different on these Jets, CP?
“Bart — definitely Bart,” Pace said of the departed Bart Scott. “It’s funny not to hear Bart’s mouth for two or three hours at a time.
“Revis … Eric Smith … Sione … you look at guys who are wearing their numbers — oh, that’s not Bart, that’s not Revis.”
No. 97 in green and white is still Pace. Even though he was released on Feb. 19 along with Scott and Smith and shortly before Po‘uha, he was re-signed two months later. He was asked after today’s OTA practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center what kind of a pitch that head coach Rex Ryan made to bring him back.
“It wasn’t really a pitch,” Pace said. “When I got released, people asked me, where do you want to play? Really, I didn’t know. This is where I’ve been the last five years. Rex said he wanted me back so I just signed back. Put it behind me and keep moving.”
Pace is a rare old bird these days. He is now the man wearing the mantle as the most experienced Jet, now entering his 11th NFL season. In fact, he’s the only Jet with double digit in years of experience, with recently signed G Stephen Peterman entering his ninth year and a handful of players starting their eighth seasons.
This gave the thoughtful pro a scary glimpse of the NFL of the future.
“I just think this is the way the NFL’s going to become now,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of guys playing 10 years. I think my generation is the last. It’s funny because I don’t think these young guys see that. So it’s going to keep getting younger and younger, to the point where you’re going to look at a guy playing five years, and he’s a veteran. I just think that’s the way of the business.”
But there’s still a place in the business at the moment, if the price is right for team and player, for a pro like Pace. He surely doesn’t have the giddyup he did when he arrived as an unrestricted free agent from the Cardinals in 2008, but he can still contribute to a defense and in particular to the Ryan/Dennis Thurman defense that he’s been playing in since ’09.
And it’s been mostly in that defense that Pace has racked up his 28 sacks as a Jet from ’08-12. That’s not a monster number and yet it is still the best in a five-year span by a Jets LB since Mo Lewis totaled 33.5 from 1997-2001.
For that aspect of Pace’s game and more, Ryan is glad he’s back.
“That was a big signing for us — he’s kind of like the glue out there,” the head coach said at his news conference this afternoon. “We’re doing a lot of different things with him, moving him all over the place. He was even playing corner for one play. He had plenty of depth, though. We threw an incompletion in the flat and that was good to see.
“But we’re taking advantage of having Calvin. We’re using him Some of the techniques you’re teaching, he knows. You don’t have to say anything. And that’s reassuring, no doubt.”
Pace has the credentials to provide leadership and pointers to his younger teammates, be they second-year man and new OLB contributor Quinton Coples or returning OLB Garrett McIntyre or recently signed eight-year vet Antwan Barnes.
“The addition of Antwan, Garrett playing well, Demario [Davis] playing a bigger role this year, I think it’s going to be a good mix,” he said.
As for his own evolving role, Pace said he also likes the mix of some new wrinkles and some of the same old same old.
“I feel good,” he said. “I can play as long as anybody wants me.”
Right now, this 11th-year man is wanted.
Grabbing a Headline
Many tweeting beatwriters were chirping this morning about the “catch of the day,” TE Hayden Smith’s high fingertip snare over the middle of a blitz-beating Mark Sanchez throw.
“I got lucky on one,” said Smith amiably, explaining that the play “was kind of an all-go for the wide receivers, and I had the option to go across the middle. Mark threw it up and down over the linebacker. It was thrown fairly high.”
Asked if it was reminiscent of anything he might’ve done as a lock forward for Saracens or the USA Eagles, he said, “Yes, it was quite similar to a lineout with no lift.”
In Smith’s case, rugby continues to translate well into the NFL.
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