For the second straight season, Calvin Pace won't be running out of the tunnel with his teammates when they dart onto the field for their regular-season opener.
Pace, who was suspended for the first four games a season ago after violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, has a broken bone in his right foot and will have surgery tomorrow in Charlotte, N.C.
The OLB will be sidelined for at least the season opener, which is set for two weeks from tomorrow on "Monday Night Football" against the Ravens at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
But the Jets aren't sure beyond that when he'll be back. You'd think Pace, who was injured early in the third quarter of Friday's preseason loss to the Redskins, would be a bit bummed out, knowing he's out for a while. He said he's in good spirits, though.
"I’m still upbeat. I really am," he said a few minutes ago on a conference call. "Stuff happens in football. I’ll say this: It's better to get injured playing rather than having to sit out four games because of a silly mistake as far as [taking a banned] a supplement.
"You know, it happens. I'm going to stay upbeat and cheering the guys on."
Pace is set to undergo surgery, with noted foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson performing the procedure. He's unsure how long he'll be sidelined.
"I don't necessarily have a time frame," Pace said. "I’ll go down to Charlotte and get the surgery. The doctors are going to look at it and assess what needs to be done. Hopefully, it will be a speedy recovery. But I'll definitely miss the first game. That's safe to say. But beyond that, I don't really have an idea."
Pace was injured when Redskins backup tackle Stephen Heyer struck him in the foot with his helmet as Heyer was sliding over to his right to block the blitzing Pace from the left side.
"It was three-step drop and that tackle tried to cut block me," Pace said. "I tried to block him away, but I guess his helmet hit the side of my foot. And at that point, it kind of hurt a little bit. So I came out of the game and they took me back to the locker room and X-rayed it. And it showed a fracture."
Pace didn't go so far as to say it was a dirty play on Heyer's part, though.
"Nah, I mean it's football," he said. "Different people have different blocking styles. I'm not going to say it was a dirty play. I guess I should've got my foot out the way quicker."
Pace's absence will be a significant loss for the Jets. He's their top pass rusher, recording a team-high eight sacks in 2009, and his versatility is nearly irreplaceable, given he can check the tight end, drop back in coverage or rush the passer.
Still, Pace is confident the Jets' defense will get the job done without him, just as it did a season ago when the team got off to that fast 3-0 start. The spotlight now shifts to OLB/DE Jason Taylor, possibly Adalius Thomas (as we mentioned one post below) and Vernon Gholston among others as they try to keep the ship afloat until Pace makes it back.
"It's a blow, but the beauty of it is they signed Jason," Pace said. "I’m hearing reports of possibly bringing in Adaluis Thomas, you’ve still got Jamaal Westerman, Vernon had a great preseason. You’ve still got a lot of guys and that's the beauty of playing in Rex’s defense, is the fact that every week he’s dialing somebody up, somebody different who the week before might not necessarily have had the same role.
"So that's the beauty of the defense that we play. But I missed four games last year and the guys did great. So that’s part of being a team. Sometimes guys go down and the next man picks up the slack."