The Jets lost Calvin Pace to a broken right foot in the third preseason week and they were pleased to get him back on the practice field Wednesday on a limited basis.
"He's probably our best pass rusher. You have Jason Taylor and him — that would be a pretty good combination on the outside for us," said head coach Rex Ryan of Pace. "Right now, quite honestly, we're struggling a little bit in our pass defense and we're not getting the heat on the quarterback that we would like to get. That would definitely be a shot in the arm if we can get Calvin back."
During the Jets' 2-1 start, the defense has racked up five sacks but they're ranked just 27th in pass defense (274.7 pass yards per game) and 31st in third down conversions (51.1 percent). Pace not only had eight sacks in 12 games last season, but he's also a tremendous athlete who can help the club in coverage as well.
"It was good to do everything, just to get back into the flow of things and get back to being myself," he said. "When you sit in that training room, it's like being in an insane asylum. You can watch everything, but you can't do anything. It just feels good to get back to my normal routine."
The official practice report says Pace did not participate in 11-on-11 team work, but he did take part in individual drills as his recovery to full health continues.
"As the week goes along, I'll probably do more and more but today was just an individual period for me," he said. "After I did that, I did some agility work, a little running and everything felt good."
If Pace is cleared for action, he'd appear in sub situations as the Jets try to get after mobile Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"If he can go, I think that would be the plan for him — get him out there on third down," Ryan said. "We all know we've had struggles getting off the field on third down, which is usually our forte."
Pace had a screw inserted in his right foot during the August procedure. He could have elected to forgo surgery but that would have been a riskier option.
"I've known a couple of guys who've had the injury. You can opt out of having surgery, but there's the possibility of rebreaking it," he said. "We talked it over and the doctor was pretty much like, 'You go ahead and get the screw in, it will help you heal better, and God willing, you won't ever have a problem with it again. It will be more stable than it was before.' So we went with surgery."
Wednesday was the first day Pace attended all of his meetings since the surgery. The first priority was getting him ready to go physically before he returned to the classroom.
"We have a great training staff who have worked around the clock with me, so I just come in and do my work. It's not hard to go in and do the stuff that's laid out. If I tell them I need more, they ramp it up for me. The process has been easy," he said. "It's just a matter of having patience and being the best cheerleader I can be. It's just time and I feel like I'll be out there soon."
He has a reason to be optimistic. Every time he's gotten clearance to do more, the foot has responded positively.
"I haven't felt sore. Every day that they've done more, I haven't felt sore and that's what the treatment is for. Try to keep the swelling down, try to keep the pain down. I don't think I'll feel sore," he said. "To be honest with you, the better my foot feels, just loosening up and getting it kind of back active. I anticipate it feeling a little bit better [tomorrow] than I did today."
Pace is ready for his return, but he won't throw a fit if he's held out of action Sunday against the Bills. He wants to be a factor for the Jets in 2010 and that means being 100 percent.
"You don't want to have any lingering effects, so I don't want to be feeling this in Week 10. I want to go ahead and rehab the best as possible to where I feel good in Week 10, I feel like back to myself," he said. "If they say 'no go,' no go. Then I'll wait until next week to see how it feels and that's a good thing about what we're doing. We're collaborating. It's not like it's a situation where it's like 'you have to play' or 'you can't play.' If I feel good, then they'll let me go."