Jets’ Calvin Pace suspended four games

According Dan Leberfeld of NY Jets Confidential, linebacker Calvin Pace has been suspended without pay for the team’s first four regular-season games of the 2009 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Pace’s suspension begins on Saturday, September 5. He is eligible to return to the Jets’ active roster on Monday, October 5 following the team’s October 4 game against the New Orleans Saints.

Pace is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.

And like almost all suspended players, Pace had no idea he was taking a banned substance.

“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,” said Pace. “I am responsible for what I put into my body and I should have paid closer attention to the League’s guidelines.”

Tough break for a Jets defense that has been building excitement since the hire of new head coach Rex Ryan. Pace was outstanding last year for the Jets coming over from the Cardinals, quickly establishing himself as the team’s top pass rusher.

Although this is a huge blow for the Jets, this is a big opportunity for second-year player Vernon Gholston, who was an utter disaster as a rookie last year. If Ryan can get Gholston to understand pro schemes like Eric Mangini attempted and failed to do last year, then maybe the former Ohio State product can make a splash this season. Ryan sees Gholston as a potential Terrell Suggs in his defense, but Gholston has to learn the playbook first.

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Blogging the Bloggers: Gold Diggers, Japanese baseball curses and Posh Spice

Dwight FreeneySPORTSbyBROOKS.com has the story of Colts’ defensive end Dwight Freeney, who had the opportunity to learn a little bit about gold-digging women.

THE LOVE OF SPORTS ponders what would have happened if the Kentucky Wildcats had defended the in-bounds pass in their crushing Eastern Regional Finals loss to Duke in 1992.

Deadspin discusses weird Japanese baseball curses.

TONYBLOGS.NET writes that David Beckham plans to own a MLS team after his career ends. Hopefully this means that High Maintenance Spice will remain in the public eye for a long, long time.

Calvin Pace (yes, that Calvin Pace) wonders aloud whether or not his linebacker brethren Aaron Curry should be the No. 1 overall pick.

Jets sign underrated free agent LB Bart Scott

One of the small notions when it comes to the NFL offseason is never to sign a free agent defender from the Baltimore Ravens. Because usually once they get out of the Ravens’ 3-4 defensive scheme, they never live up to their high free agent billing. (See Ed Hartwell for just one example.)

But considering the man that ran the Ravens’ defense for the better part of a decade is now the head coach for the New York Jets, it was probably safe to take the chance on Baltimore free agent linebacker Bart Scott.


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2009 NFL All-Spectator Team: All Pros, No Playoffs

Granted, guys like Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu had wonderful seasons. But don’t they already get plenty of love? With our third-annual NFL All-Spectator Team, we want to shine the spotlight on the players that had great seasons, but for one reason or another, missed the postseason.

So there won’t be any Steelers, Cardinals, Eagles or Ravens on this team. Nor any Giants, Panthers, Vikings or Falcons. They’ve had their opportunity to shine. We’ll recognize those great players that spent the postseason on their couch, or maybe on a beach somewhere. After all, it’s not their fault that they’re on a mediocre (or a crappy) team, is it?

Hell, we’ll even honor a couple of Detroit Lions – how’s that for spreading the love around?

Check out our 2008 and 2007 All-Spectator squads.

OFFENSE

QB: Drew Brees (NO)
5,069 yards, 34 TDs, 17 INTs, 96.2 QB rating
For the second straight season, Brees is our choice at QB. On one hand, it’s a nice honor because it means he’s consistently productive, but we’re sure he’d rather be guiding the Saints into the playoffs. Brees improved his numbers across the board, and almost broke Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record; he averaged 317 passing yards per game! He posted the second-highest QB rating of his career and even turned someone named Lance Moore into a fantasy star. For this, he was named AP Offensive Player of the Year, a well-deserved honor.

RB: Matt Forte (CHI)
1,238 rushing yards, 63 rec., 477 receiving yards, 12 total TD
It was a tough call between Forte and Thomas Jones, but with 1,715 total yards, the rookie gets the nod. Some draft pundits questioned his ability to be an every down back, but didn’t have any problems taking over as the Bears’ RB1. He caught an eye-popping 63 catches and was (by far) the Bears’ best offensive weapon. It’s scary to think what he could do if Chicago had another playmaker in the passing game that would keep defenses from stacking the line against the run.

FB: Earnest Graham (TB)
563 rushing yards; 23 rec., 174 rec. yards; 4 total TD
Were there better fullbacks that we could have chosen? Yeah, especially considering Graham isn’t technically even a fullback. But we chose Graham (who missed the last six games of the year with an ankle injury) because of his unselfishness this season. He volunteered to move to fullback when the Bucs were in need of a power blocker and he never griped about losing his feature back role. When he went down with a season ending injury in Week 11, Tampa clearly missed his power running style over the past two months of the season and even more so, they missed his leadership.

WR: Andre Johnson (HOU)
115 rec., 1575 yards, 8 TD
All AJ did was lead the NFL in catches and yards, anchoring one of the league’s best offenses in the process. He posted 9+ catches eight times and went over 100 yards in each of those games. This included success against the very best competition; he racked up 11 catches for 207 yards and a TD against the Titans, who have one of the top pass defenses in the league. A big day for AJ usually meant a Texans win; Houston was 6-2 in games where Johnson went off.

WR: Brandon Marshall (DEN)
104 rec., 1265 yards, 6 TD
Marshall missed the first game of the season due to suspension, but he made up for it the next week, posting an amazing 18 catches for 166 yards and a score against the Chargers. He was one of the most consistent wideouts over the rest of the season, catching no fewer than four passes in 12 of the next 14 games. Surprisingly, he only caught six touchdowns, but with the third-most catches and seventh-most yards in the league, his stats are plenty impressive.

TE: Tony Gonzalez (KC)
96 rec., 1058 yards, 10 TD
Gonzo makes his second-straight appearance on our All-Spectator Team. Jason Witten may have earned this spot if not for a midseason injury that hindered his production, but Gonzalez was every bit the top TE in the league this season. He was 12th in the league in yards and tied for 4th in catches. What’s most impressive about Gonzo’s season is that, at 32, he turned in what was arguably his third-best season of his illustrious 12-year, Hall of Fame career.

OT: Ryan Clady (DEN)
The Broncos might have produced one of the worst collapses of any team in NFL history by surrendering a four game lead over the Chargers with only four games remaining in the season, but Clady deserves praise for his exceptional play this year. The rookie gave up just a half sack and helped anchor the left tackle position for an offensive line that tied the Titans for fewest sacks allowed in the NFL (12). He’s the type of player the Broncos can build their O-line around and he was clearly a Pro Bowl snub.

OT: Joe Thomas (CLE)
Did Thomas take a slight step back this season? Yes. Even some in Cleveland’s organization will admit it. But offensive linemen aren’t immune to having sophomore slumps and even though his production might have dipped a little, Thomas was still one of the best tackles in the AFC and worthy of his Pro Bowl roster spot. He was also part of a Browns’ offensive line that finished eighth in sacks allowed. Some are going to wonder where Jason Peters’ (Bills) name is, but don’t strain your eyes looking too long because he didn’t make the cut. Peters gave up more sacks (11.5 sacks in just 13 games) this year than any starting left tackle in the league.

OG: Leonard Davis (DAL)
Two years ago, the Cardinals gave up on Davis because they didn’t feel he was consistent or dominant enough to be their cornerstone left tackle. Not that they were wrong, but they might regret giving up on him with the way he’s excelled since the Cowboys moved him to right guard after signing him to a seven-year, $49.6 million contract in March of 2007. Davis had another outstanding year and some believe that he was the most dominant right guard in the NFL this season. The Saints’ Jahri Evans (who made our honorable mention list) got a starting look for our guard positions, but in the end we couldn’t pass up pairing Davis with Alan Faneca.

OG: Alan Faneca (NYJ)
The Steelers didn’t want to pony up to pay a 32-year old guard with plenty of mileage on his body, but the Jets signed the veteran to a five-year, $40 million contract and it’s safe to say that Faneca was worth the money. After breakout seasons as rookies in 2006, the play of left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold dropped in 2007. But the addition of Faneca turned out to be the shot in the arm that the two youngsters needed. Faneca’s presence also helped running back Thomas Jones bounce back after a rough 2007 campaign, as he rushed for 1,312 yards this season.

C: Dan Koppen (NE)
Whether it was because of a down year or the inexperience of quarterback Matt Cassel, the Patriots’ offensive line was brutal in pass protection this season. They gave up 48 sacks despite returning all five starters from their Super Bowl team. Regardless, the Patriots still had the fifth best offense in the NFL and were the sixth best running team. At the center (no pun intended) of their success was Koppen, who continues to be a quiet leader on a team filled with exceptional players. Cassel’s success this season had a lot to do with having a veteran center setting the line protection every play and guiding the young signal caller along the way.


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Five best and worst NFL offseason acquisitions from 2008

Michael TurnerThe 2008 NFL Season has entered its second half and while some teams are rejoicing over the moves they made this past summer in either signing or trading for players, others are wondering what the hell they were thinking.

Below are five of the best acquisitions from the 2008 NFL offseason, as well as five of the worst. Granted, these moves might look differently at the end of the season or in a year or two, but for now, these are the best of the best and the worst of the worst from the 2008 offseason.

Five Best Offseason Acquisitions:

1. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons handed “The Burner” a six-year, $34.5 million contract in early March and while some pundits loved the move, others thought it was too much for the unproven Turner, who had spent his entire career backing up LaDainian Tomlinson. But the signing has paid huge dividends for a Falcons team that ranks second in the league in rushing thanks to his bruising running style. He’s formed a nice “Thunder and Lighting” combo with Jerious Norwood and more importantly, has taken a lot of pressure off rookie Matt Ryan by demanding opponents to focus on taking away the run. He hasn’t fared well against top defenses this season, which is a concern, but outside of that he’s been everything Atlanta had hoped for. He has rushed for 890 yards on 203 carries and has scored seven times.

2. Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
There was a lot of talk last offseason that Samuel would never live up to the hype that surrounded him in New England. But through 10 games this season, it’s hard to argue that the former Patriot hasn’t lived up to his big play billing. Samuel has recorded three interceptions on the year and has fit into Jim Johnson’s defense better than most expected. He’s not a shutdown corner, but he plays well in zone and rarely gets burned deep. He has also helped the Eagles rank sixth in the league in pass defense and ninth overall in yardage allowed. He was pricey at just over $57 million for six years, but so far Samuel has been worth the money.


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