FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Calvin Pace is eager to finally get his season started.
The veteran linebacker rejoined the New York Jets on Monday after completing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
"Man, I've never been so happy to see 58 guys in my life," Pace said. "Being away from the game is tough. People asked me, 'Man, why are you home? Don't you have a game today?' And, I had to explain to them why."
Coach Rex Ryan was pretty excited to see his pass-rushing standout back at the team's training facility.
"I wasn't going to kiss him on the lips," Ryan said, smiling, "but I thought about it."
Pace participated in training camp and preseason games, but was banned from contact with the team after being suspended in July without pay for testing positive for a banned substance.
"It really humbled me," said Pace, who'll practice for the first time Wednesday. "When you're not playing and you don't have what you love to do, and you're not doing it, it's tough. I'm just happy to be back."
After he was alerted at the end of last season of the test result, Pace sent in the supplements he took to the league, but lost his appeal. He hasn't specified what he took, only saying it was "something that you can get at any GNC."
During his suspension, Pace worked out for a week in Las Vegas, training with members of mixed martial arts star Randy Couture's team.
"I'm 14-0 right now," Pace said, laughing. "Nah, it was cool. It was a different aspect of training, but I think more than anything, it's good for handspeed and it's a good cardio workout. I'm not going to be signing up for any fights anytime soon."
He spent the rest of the suspension home in Atlanta and continued to work out five days a week, keeping a close eye on his teammates as they opened the season 3-1. His pass-rushing presence will add to a defense that has been outstanding even without him. The Jets rank fifth in overall defense and have allowed just three offensive touchdowns.
"I think the way the guys handled themselves and the way they played, I've got to step my game up to their level just because they've been flying around and making plays and really making it happen for this team," Pace said. "It's really about me being one piece of the puzzle and going in and fitting in and not trying to do too much."
Pace, in his seventh NFL season and second with the Jets, led the team last year with a career-high seven sacks.
"He's a rare guy and one of the premier players in this league," Ryan said.
After such a long layoff, Pace wants to make up for lost time.
"I kind of pride myself on not taking plays off and not coming off the field," he said, "but they're going to have to drag me off the field now."