Sources: Calvin Pace out 4-6 weeks
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.
NEW YORK -- Outside linebacker Calvin Pace is headed to a North Carolina surgeon to have his broken right foot repaired.
Pace's injury, coupled with the absence of star cornerback Darrelle Revis, has created major questions for the New York Jets vaunted defense -- a brash unit that describes itself as "swagger-licious."
"I'm not nearly as concerned as maybe other people are," Jets coach Rex Ryan said Sunday with a hint of defiance.
Amid league sources telling ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Pace was expected to miss four to six weeks, Ryan said he reached out to free-agent linebacker Adalius Thomas, confirming an ESPNNewYork.com report from earlier Sunday.
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Thomas, 33, released April 26 by the New England Patriots, spent seven seasons under Ryan with the Baltimore Ravens. The Jets envision Thomas as the third outside linebacker, behind Bryan Thomas and Jason Taylor, and were working Sunday night to hammer out a deal.
"I would say it would be a possibility," Ryan said. "I'm not going to rule that out."
Curiously, the Jets refused to give a timetable on Pace's injury. Pace, speaking on a conference call with reporters, conceded only that he won't play against the Ravens in the season opener.
"Hopefully, it will be somewhat of a speedy recovery," said Pace, who was injured Friday night when Washington Redskins tackle Stephon Heyer banged his helmet into the linebacker's foot on a cut block. "I'll probably definitely miss the first game. I think that's safe to say. Beyond that, I don't have any idea."
Ryan echoed that sentiment, saying there are "differences of opinion" on how long Pace will be sidelined. The Jets say they will have a better idea once the surgery is complete. It will be performed Monday by foot specialist Robert Anderson, as first reported by ESPN's Schefter.
Because his position requires him to push off with his feet, Pace may need even more time than the month-and-a-half before he's 100 percent, according to an NFL personnel executive. Evidently, the Jets are approaching it as a long-term injury. Othewise, they likely wouldn't have called Thomas, who apparently hasn't drawn serious interest from other teams.
Taylor, who turns 36 on Tuesday, will replace Pace in the starting lineup. The Jets envisioned Taylor as a situational pass rusher when they signed him as a free agent, but he will be an every-down player until Pace returns.
Thomas was a Pro Bowl player in his heyday, but his production declined steadily in three seasons with the Patriots. In 14 games last season, he recorded only 34 tackles and three sacks. He also fell out of favor with coach Bill Belichick.
Ryan said the best-case scenario would be to sign Thomas immediately and let him play in the final preseason game, and "see if he's the same guy you remember."
Bu that's a lot to live up to.
"A lot of the defenses we came up with, that are looked upon as maybe unique in the league, were due to his physical abilities and his mental abilities," Ryan said.
The Jets also can use Vernon Gholston at outside linebacker, his old position. Even though he has switched to defensive end, where he's starting to show signs of life, Gholston still is getting reps at linebacker. He saw fourth-quarter action against the Redskins, and he will play both positions in the preseason finale.
But with Pace out and Revis' contract holdout reaching 29 days, the Jets' defense is clearly back on its heels.
"It's going to be tremendously difficult to stay at the same level," linebacker Bart Scott said, "but we have to adjust the way we attack."
The Jets went 3-1 last season when Pace served a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy of performance-enhancing drugs. Of course, they had Revis for that stretch. Pace wound up leading the team with eight sacks.
"I'm still upbeat, I really am," Pace said of his situation. "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 supplements."