Pace was released in February from the six year contract he signed prior to the 2008 season, but the Jets re-signed him on April 16.
"When I got released, people asked me, where do you want to play?," mentioned "I didn't know. This is where I've been for the last five years. Rex said he wanted me back so I just signed back. Put it behind me and keep moving."
A lot has changed during the short time Pace was gone. A majority of the players that lined up next to him on defense are gone. Darrelle Revis was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Several key players left via free agency. The list included LaRon Landry, who signed with the Colts and Yeremiah Bell, who inked a deal with the Arizona Cardinals and defensive lineman Mike Devito departed the Big Apple for Kansas City. The organization also decided to part ways with several familiar faces. The Jets released aging linebacker Bart Scott, safety Eric Smith, and defensive lineman Sione Po'uha.
"Revis, Eric Smith, Sione, you look at guys who are wearing their numbers --- oh, that's not Bart, that's not Revis," Pace said.
The Jets have been participating in OTA's all week, but Pace can't help to notice the difference, especially with Scott gone.
"It's funny not to hear Bart's mouth for two or three hours at a time," noted Pace.
Although Pace may not be the player he used to be, he can still have a positive influence on the organization.
Pace is now a seasoned veteran, entering his eleventh season in the NFL and sixth with Gang Green. No. 97 will be called upon to give much needed leadership to a young defense. New York will count on him to provide guidance to Quinton Couples, who is making the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker. Recently signed Antwan Barnes will support Pace in giving experience to the new linebacking corps.
"That was a big signing for us --- he's kind of like the glue out there, said Rex Ryan of signing Pace earlier in the offseason." "We're doing a lot of different things with him, moving him all over the place. He was even playing corner for one play. He had plenty of depth, though. We threw incompletion in the flat and that was good to see."
Pace performed well last season. He had 55 tackles and three sacks in 16 games for the Green and White. Pace will be the most experienced player on the team entering the 2013 season. It is rare to see players in the league enter double digit years of service. Pace believes the NFL is changing,
"I just think this is the way the NFL's going to become now. "I don't think you're going to see a lot of guys playing 10 years. I think my generation is the last. It's funny because I don't think these young guys see that. So it's going to keep getting younger and younger, to the point where you're going to look at a guy playing five years, and he's a veteran. I just think that's the way of business."
The entire landscape of the team is different, but the young Jets hope to prove the critics wrong and make a run at the playoffs next season. In order for them to do that, they will have to rely heavily on the defense. Pace will be a huge factor in the success of this youthful group of players.
Pace wants to also prove his worth and show he still belongs. Right now he has a spot on the roster and is happy to receive a second chance.
"I feel good," Pace said. "I can play as long as anybody wants me."