Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul could begin as early as Sunday when it comes to showing his New York Giants team that he can still provide a big bang in their pass rush.
Pierre-Paul, the former USF star, could make his season debut Sunday against the Bucs, although most experts had said he might not return until week 10 against the Patriots. Still, Pierre-Paul this week hinted that his return could come as soon as this week.
“I’m going to play Sunday … maybe,” Pierre-Paul said. “”It’s just adjustments,” Pierre-Paul said. “I think I’m doing a great job at it because I’ve been able to grab and shed tackles. It’s a big adjustment but I’m OK. I’m doing pretty good. Skillset hasn’t lost it. I haven’t lost it. “I’m out there doing what I can. Hopefully I’ll be out there Sunday.”
Pierre-Paul had a finger amputated this summer after a fireworks accident and had damage to his thumb and another finger. However, the Giants need him. They are last in the NFL with nine sacks. Last year, Pierre-Paul had 12.5 all by himself.
“He’s one of the best defensive players in the game when healthy, so what does he bring?” said Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith. “A force. Every defense needs that true bell cow and just about any team he would go on, that would be the case. Rusher, talking about the pass, [he’s] a great rusher. [He’s] a big guy to play the run. He brings quite a bit. They are a better team. They definitely are a better defense with him on the football field.”
Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin said the team would use Pierre-Paul as quickly as it can.
“When you tell people that there’s a chance that whenever he’s ready to play, we’ll play him, and then it gets reversed to people want to know, ‘Well, gee, isn’t it early to rush him?’” Couglin said. “Well, you’ve been asking for him all summer, and now it’s [the opposite]. So that’s where we are. He’s practicing, we’ve upped the number of reps, he had a nice day today and we’ll see. We’ll see how he is.”
When Pierre-Paul is ready to play, Couglin said he expects the same player that he was.
“He really doesn’t show a whole lot of difference, to be honest with you,” Coughlin said. “They really do a nice job of making what appears to be a large thing for him to wear in practice. I don’t know how comfortable he is with that or how long that will be something he’ll do. But he was able to, a couple of times today that I noticed, get his hands in there and defend against the run, get his arms locked out, steer the offensive tackle, that type of thing. He was able to do that a couple of times today, so I think it’s just a matter of getting used to the padding, the glove and all the things he wears in practice, which he won’t wear to probably that degree in the game. He will have to go through the whole rigmarole of putting both hands down and using his hand the way he would try to use it normally. So he’ll go through all of that and I’m sure there’ll be a learning curve there as well.
“I think he’s definitely gone through a traumatic experience. When he first came in he was very upbeat, very positive, and he continues to do that with the same old Jason smile on his face, but there’s a seriousness about him that probably was not there before and I think the first week that he was back here, there’s no doubt that he was a young man who was just grateful for the opportunity to come back and to play the game that he loves to play. I think that kind of set in at first. I think, to be honest with you, that he’s dealt with this about as well as you can. I’ve been very impressed by the things that he’s said and the way in which he’s been received, not only by his peers, his fellow teammates, but also by the way he’s conducted himself, for example, with the media.”
A lot of observers think the Giants might hold Pierre-Paul out for at least one more week. But New York has played poorly on defense and could use the energy that one of their old pros could bring to the huddle.