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NFL gives Jets LB Pace a four-game suspension for violating drug policy

NEW YORK -- The NFL suspended New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace for four games without pay Thursday for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Pace will miss the Jets' first four games of the 2009 season and is eligible to return for their Monday Night Football game at Miami on Oct. 12.

In a statement issued by the Jets, Pace said the ban is a result of him taking an over-the-counter dietary supplement that he was unaware violated the NFL's policy.

Pace, who's entering his second season with the Jets, is eligible to participate in preseason practices and games. The suspension begins Sept. 5, and Pace can return to practice on Oct. 5, one day after the Jets' game at New Orleans.

"I am responsible for what I put into my body, and I should have paid closer attention to the league's guidelines," Pace said in the statement. "I regret that this has happened and apologize to my teammates, the entire Jets organization, as well as the fans. Hopefully, this does not distract from our ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl."

The Jets also issued a statement: "We respect the league's decision and look forward to Calvin's return for our Monday night game at Miami."

Pace started all 16 games at outside linebacker in Eric Mangini's defense last season and was expected to have a prominent role in new coach Rex Ryan's aggressive 3-4 system. Pace finished second on the team with a career-high seven sacks last season, and he also had 80 tackles, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Pace signed a six-year, $42 million deal with the Jets last offseason and received a $20 million signing bonus. He spent his first five NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, who selected him with the 18th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

Linebacker Vernon Gholston, who had a disappointing rookie season in 2008, is expected to fill in at one of the Jets' outside linebacker positions, opposite starter Bryan Thomas. Ryan repeatedly said he was excited at the progress made by Gholston during minicamp and offseason workouts. Marques Murrell and Jason Trusnik, both two-year pros, also will be options.

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