- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Linebacker Calvin Pace, who had surgery on a broken bone in his right foot 21 days ago, ran outside for the first time Monday afternoon. It is an incredibly short amount of time to be this far along in the healing process, and one that Jets coach Rex Ryan said had team doctors using the word "extraordinary."
"Calvin's doing great," Ryan said. "He's way ahead of where most people are at this time."
Pace, who was at the facility with his right foot in a sleeve, said he feels good about the possibility of returning to action in two weeks against Buffalo.
"The way he's progressing, there's no reason to think he can't do that," Ryan said.
Pace ran through some football drills on the field for the first time since his injury. He is doing so well that he wouldn't even rule out playing Sunday against Miami.
"Everything's going good right now," Pace said. "If I had to give you a percentage chance of me playing, 30, 40 percent -- today. It might get better later in the week."
The Jets have been using some innovative techniques with Pace to assist in the healing process. He has a screw in the bone, so he won't be able to rebreak it as he accelerates the return.
Pace said he has to get used to the idea mentally that he can put weight on it.
"Getting that in my head," Pace said.
Pace has been working out in the water, which reduces pressure on the foot, and today walked on a treadmill that puts the user's lower body in a bubble. Pace said the treadmill can make it feel as if his body weight is reduced from 265 to 130 pounds. Gradually, weight is added as the foot gets better.
"Takes some of the strain off your foot and build it up in your mind, 'I can do this,' " Pace said. "Luckily I'm in a team with state of the art stuff. Ten days after my surgery I was doing some stuff."
But it isn't all about big movements. Some of the other therapies involve more discreet muscle involvement.
"Simple stuff like picking up marbles with my feet," Pace said. "Just try to work those muscles back. It's crazy, you don't do something with your leg and it's sitting up in the cast for a week, and you feel like it's a new leg. You feel like you've got to teach it all over again."
Pace has transitioned from crutches to the boot on his foot, and now a shoe. When he was out on the field Monday, he said things felt fine until the very end.
"It felt good," Pace said. "The thing that I saw today, doing some football motion stuff that felt fine, but when they told me to pick up my leg, that felt crazy."
So perhaps some more time is in order. But after breaking the bone in late August, even shooting to be back against Buffalo is a remarkable feat.
"Ultimately I would love to play but I don't want to be that guy to force a comeback and get injured worse," Pace said.
Doctors and coaches surprised by extraordinarily quick healing time