Pace reflects on 'hardest thing in the world'

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- At 32, Calvin Pace is having a "monster" training camp, according to Rex Ryan. Pace credits a new outlook. Two months of unemployment can change a man's perspective. He keeps his termination letter as motivation.

"I had to be real with myself and it was the hardest thing in the world," the veteran linebacker said Wednesday.

Coming off a disappointing 2012, Pace was released in February with other high-priced veterans. His production (three sacks) didn't come close to maching his salary, an $11.6 million cap charge. He was crushed.

"Last year wasn't good enough," he said. "It wasn't just absolutely awful, but I got fired, you know what I'm saying? It wasn't like a bunch of teams were beating my door down. It was an extremely humbling experience. ... You're living your dream for a team you love to play for, an awesome city. All of a sudden, it's, 'Thanks, but no thanks.'

"You're looking at your termination letter and it says you weren't as good as everybody else. It's something that stuck with me and will always stick with me. Even on days where I don't want to see these guys, coming out here for practice, I think about that. I don't ever want to feel like that. I didn't want my career to end on a mediocre year."

Pace keeps his official termination letter in his book bag. He glances at it from time to time, a reminder of the dark side of the NFL. He likes this side better. He rededicated himself in the offseason and feels rejuvenated by the youth that surrounds him on defense.

Ryan believes Pace can duplicate 2009, when he recorded a career-high eight sacks. To that, Pace said: "I plan on it." He's not making huge dollars anymore (the $940,000 minimum, plus a $65,000 signing bonus), but he's not about the money at this stage of his career.

"I still have more left in the tank," he said. "I just didn't want my career to end here with somebody telling me I couldn't play, people saying what I couldn't do and me knowing what I can do.

"This is where I want to finish, hopefully on my terms, when I can say, 'It's been a pleasure, time to say goodbye.' I didn't want it to end like that."