NFL Suspends LB Calvin Pace for 4 Games

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The NFL just released this statement on LB Calvin Pace through a league spokesperson:

"Calvin Pace of the New York Jets has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2009 season for violating the NFL Policy on Performance Enhancing Substances."

Pace, who is eligible to practice with his teammates during training camp and participate in all of the club's preseason games, will begin serving his suspension prior to the Jets' regular-season opener at Houston on Sept. 13. He will then be eligible to return to the team on Monday, Oct. 5, following the Jets' Oct. 4 game at New Orleans.

"We respect the league's decision and look forward to Calvin's return for our Monday Night game at Miami," said the Jets in a statement.

The 6'4", 270-pound Pace was a key free agent acquisition when he joined the Jets on March 3, 2008. And the fluid outside linebacker didn't disappoint in year one, racking up a career-high seven sacks for New York's AFC representative. Pace, whose 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage led the team, also paced the Jets with a career-best four fumble recoveries (tying for the NFL lead in that category) and tied for the club-high with five forced fumbles.

"This is a situation that resulted from an over-the-counter dietary supplement that contained a substance that I did not know violated the league's policy," Pace said in a statement.  "I am responsible for what I put into my body and I should have paid closer attention to the league's guidelines. I regret that this has happened and apologize to my teammates, the entire Jets organization as well as the fans. Hopefully, this does not distract from our ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl."

After Pace spent  his first five pro seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, the Jets reportedly inked the coveted defender to a six-year, $42 million dollar deal with a $20 million signing bonus last spring. His absence will be missed early on in '09 and someone will have to step up in his absence.

Selected sixth overall in the 2008 NFL draft, Ohio State product Vernon Gholston missed important time last spring because the school year didn't end until June. But this off-season the 6'3", 264-pound Gholston has been present at all of the team's activities and has rarely ventured far from the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Even as most of the team is away until training camp, Gholston has been getting in extra work in both the weightroom and the filmroom.

"It's been huge, just my growth as a player and within this defense," he said this spring. "I've actually been able to go through the installs, be a part of the OTAs and kind of grasp all the things I missed last year."

When the Jets hired Rex Ryan in January, the rookie head coach expressed his excitement to mentor the talented Gholston.

"I see some things in his play that I knew that I would like to coach this young man because I don't even think he's scratched the surface of the kind of player he can be," Ryan said.

Back in 2007, Gholston racked up 14 sacks to set an Ohio State record. His 22.5 career sacks were the fifth-highest total in school history and Jets Nation will be eager to watch his development under the new defensive staff.

"What we've done a good job of doing is identifying what a guy can do and let him do that," said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. "Let's turn him loose and let him play to his strengths. At the same time we're working on what he might be deficient in.   A guy like Vernon, we're going to find out early what he can do. I think a big part with him is getting him some confidence early."

In the Jets' 3-4 front, David Harris and Bart Scott will man the inside 'backer positions. Veteran Bryan Thomas, who picked up 5.5 sacks last season, will return on the outside and now Gholston will have a golden opportunity to contribute. The Jets also like their young OLB reserves in Marques Murrell and Jason Trusnik.

The new-look defense will be challenged immediately in the Jets' opening quartet of games — at Houston (9/13), vs. New England (9/20), vs. Tennessee (9/27) and at New Orleans (10/4). In 2008, the Texans finished third in total offense, the Patriots finished fifth and the Saints were No.1 overall.

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