Calvin Pace is old. In fact, having played in the NFL for over a decade, he's so old that he makes his alma mater's mascot the Demon Deacon look like a child.
"I don't think my teammates understand, I'm not old compared to everybody else in life," he said, "but I mean, whatever, man, it's an incredible blessing to be able to continue to play this game."
OK, so at 32 years of age, he's not *that *old.
Six months ago, however, Pace's ability to continue to play this game was put on hold after the Jets released the aging linebacker.
"It's funny man, you sit at home and you wish and you hope that you can do some of the things you used to dread doing, like training camp," he said. "It's a humbling experience."
The 11-year veteran was coming off a disappointing season for the Green & White. His three sacks on the season were the fewest he had racked up in any of his five years with the Jets, and 2012 was also his first Jets season without forcing a fumble.
"I just think I wasn't consistent enough last year in a lot of areas, for whatever reason," he said. "There just were games that I don't think I was a big enough factor in."
Aside from simply not putting up the statistics on defense that teammates, coaches and fans have come to expect out of him, Calvin Pace regrets keeping quiet in the locker room when he feels he should have spoken up about things the team needed to do better.
"When you play long enough," he said, "I think you kind of have to take on that role."
While Pace concedes that every athlete will experience subpar seasons, he knows that there is never an excuse for complacency.
"Nobody has great years every single year," he said. "You have some down years, but you do have to reflect and say, 'I have to step this up, and this is fine, but I need to get better in this area.' "
He did just that, using his pink slip as a second lease on life in the NFL. He looked himself in the mirror, told himself "it wasn't good enough," and worked on various aspects of his game during the offseason.
Pace's goal for this upcoming season: "To be way better than I was last year."
He realizes now that he can't take anything for granted, and he's making sure that he holds on tight to any and every football-related moment.
"Sometimes when you're going through it, you're just kind of going through the motions, but you're not embracing everything," he said. "You have to embrace these relationships, embrace stuff like going to meetings or lifting weights."
As it is in most sports, an athlete who enters his thirties and has a down year suddenly hears the comments "he's too old to do this," or "he can't do that." But Pace believes the experience that comes with old age actually gives him an advantage over a counterpart's youth.
"For whatever reason, people think there's an expiration date or they want to tell you when your time is up," he said, "and I've never understood how somebody can tell me how my body feels. Yeah, I'm a little older, but I can still play."
Head coach Rex Ryan continues to keep his veterans fresh throughout training camp by cutting down their playing time by two or three plays per practice. While Calvin Pace appreciates the breather, he says he's not looking to sit on the bench.
"In actuality, I like playing," he said, "because I've been on the other side when I'm sitting on the sidelines hoping to get in and you just never know when your time is up in this game. So I feel like, man, just go out and go as hard as you can, and if somebody can give you a breather, yeah, but if not, just keep going."
Pace said it's a pleasure playing with this group of Jets players and he appreciates his younger teammates "keeping me fresh and keeping it fun for me." Of course, he thinks that his teammates' youth comes with a dose of obliviousness on one issue: "I don't think they understand how talented they are and some of the things that they'll be able to do in their careers," he said. A wise statement from "the old guy" on the team.