New Jets linebacker Calvin Pace believes team's 3-4 defense is the perfect fit for him Print
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Tuesday, 04 March 2008 13:03
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 NEW YORK (AP) -Calvin Pace hears all the critics who think he might be nothing more than a one-year wonder.
Well, keep talking, says the New York Jets' newest linebacker.
``Yeah, it's motivation,'' Pace said during a conference call Tuesday. ``I mean, you can find motivation in anything, though. My goal is to go out here and play for this team and do my part. I'm not going to sit here and make any predictions about what I'm going to do. I'm just one guy, I'm not the savior. I'm going to play and play hard.''
The Jets signed Pace on Monday to a six-year, $42 million deal that included a $20 million signing bonus. The 27-year-old former first-round pick of Arizona is coming off the best season of his somewhat disappointing five-year career.
``People are going to say what they want to say, but that's just the way things are now,'' he said. ``I give the Jets credit. They did their research on me and they know how I fit in. It isn't like they just took a chance. ... They really have a vision for me.''
Pace, the 18th overall pick in 2003, struggled to live up to his lofty draft status at defensive end during his first two seasons with the Cardinals. His third season ended after five games when he cut his right forearm while falling through a window at his home during a bye weekend.
He played some at strongside linebacker when he returned the following year, but last season was a breakthrough. When first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt installed a 3-4 defense - the same system New York runs - Pace moved to linebacker full time and excelled.
``In Calvin's defense, and this is no disrespect to the Cardinals, but there hasn't been a whole lot of continuity there in the five years he was there,'' agent Pat Dye Jr. said. ``To Coach Whisenhunt and his staff's credit, they put Calvin in a position where he could be successful and, to his credit, he capitalized on it.''
The Jets think Pace will be able to fit right into their defense, and build on his big season when he had career highs with 98 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks.
``In today's game, the 3-4 is really helping out guys like myself,'' the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Pace said. ``We have an opportunity to rush off the edge, we have the opportunity to drop and give offenses different looks and be afraid of guys like myself.''
Dye said about 10 teams were in the running early, but they narrowed it down to those that played in 3-4 schemes. In the end, it came down to the Jets and Miami Dolphins.
While Pace was in Miami on his visit with the Dolphins on Saturday, Jets owner Woody Johnson gave him a call to check in on him. Johnson also lent his personal helicopter to the cause, allowing Pace to get a bird's-eye view of the Jets' future headquarters in Florham Park, N.J.
``It came down to the 11th hour and I thought about it,'' Pace said. ``In the long run, I felt the Jets were a better place for me. I just saw that they were trying to do some things, the class of the organization and I'm just really happy about signing here.''
Dye said another factor in Pace signing with New York was the organization's treatment of former defensive back Jamie Henderson, who suffered a career-ending motorcycle accident in 2004.
Henderson, another of Dye's clients, suffered serious injuries, including a brain bruise, and was in a coma for a few weeks. Henderson, who grew up near Pace's hometown of Lithia Springs, Ga., was unsigned at the time, but Johnson gave him a two-year deal despite the fact Henderson could barely walk.
``They didn't have to do that,'' Pace said. ``They could've just let the man go on about his business and finish his life however he would've finished. They gave him that money as a gift and just tried to help his life out, and that says a lot about the organization.''
Now, Pace is getting another chance from the Jets to blossom into the player he always believed he'd become.
``What happened to me was that a scheme just happened to come along that fit me better,'' Pace said. ``I'm very blessed for that and I'm where I am today because of that.''
 

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