FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Bryan Thomas had a get-well message for Calvin Pace, his injured teammate.
“Calvin is selfish!” the New York Jets linebacker shouted with a smile. “Write that down!”
Pace will be sidelined a few weeks with a broken right foot, something Thomas thinks is downright inconsiderate. All jokes aside, some might consider not having their top pass rusher in Pace or shutdown cornerback in Darrelle Revis a dire situation.
Not the Jets.
“We’ll get it done,” coach Rex Ryan said Monday. “This is what we do. We’re a team defense. That’s why I know our defense will play great. There’s not a question in my mind that we’ll play great. We play great team defense.”
Pace, a starting outside linebacker, was scheduled to have surgery in North Carolina on Monday night to repair a broken bone in the foot. He and the team said they would know more about how long he’ll be sidelined after the procedure, but he’ll miss at least the opener against Baltimore on Sept. 13.
That means Thomas, Jason Taylor and Vernon Gholston will replace Pace, who led the team with eight sacks last season despite being suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
“We have guys that are going to run around and I know Rex is going to pick the best roster to make this thing happen,” Thomas said. “When one guy goes down, the next guy just has to step up and keep the ball rolling. You can’t say, ‘OK, we’re going to put the season on pause,’ because one guy goes out.”
But the Jets might also be without Revis, locked in a bitter contract dispute that has no end in sight. Revis, recognized by many as the league’s top player at his position, wants to be paid as such.
His holdout reached its 30th day Monday, and it’s a real possibility Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson will be the starting cornerbacks against the Ravens. Unless, of course, the sides reach an agreement soon.
“Obviously, you’re talking about two great players and overall, in your mindset, you’ll miss them, but it’s about all of us going out there and making something happen,” Gholston said. “The way we’re set up, it’s not just one guy. That being said, everybody else has to step up and keep the defense being No. 1.”
Ryan’s aggressive defense is designed to throw offenses off with its unpredictability as players line up at different spots throughout games.
“Just in case something like this happens, you already know both positions, the strong and the weakside outside linebacker positions,” Thomas said. “Calvin going down, it’s a big void on the defense, but you still have somebody who can step up and fill that role.”
Just as the Jets had last season, when they opened without Pace and the suspended Shaun Ellis. New York also lost defensive tackle Kris Jenkins later in the year and still finished with the top overall defense.
“We can get it done,” Ryan said. “We’ve proved it all through the years. That’s all I know is great defenses. That’s what we stand for. It’s not about one guy or two guys. Every team is going to go through one or two guys you’re going to miss.”
Thomas will likely assume a lot of the man-to-man coverage duties Pace was responsible for. Meanwhile, Gholston will flip between defensive end and outside linebacker, as he did last season. But Taylor, the NFL’s active sacks leader, will be on the field a lot more than originally expected.
“I wasn’t walking around telling everybody I was a situation guy,” Taylor said. “I want to play. … It’s my job to step up and help. Do I think I can do it? Yeah, that’s what I do.”
Taylor, once one of the Jets’ most despised opponents while with Miami, can quickly endear himself to the fans and his new teammates with a few sacks.
“People can write down whatever they want,” Taylor said. “I’ve always kind of had that chip on my shoulder throughout my career. People have always said I couldn’t do things. … It’s dependent on me now to go out and help this team any way I can.”
Without Pace and Revis, the Jets can certainly use as much help as they can get. Just don’t think for a minute that they’re panicking.
“It’s easier with those players around, but we have confidence in the guys we have here, myself included,” Gholston said. “It’s all about the guys we have here and believing in the system.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.