Rock covers the New York Giants. Previously covered college sports and outdoors.
They both made dumb decisions. They both were exiled due to self-inflicted circumstances. They both created a rift between themselves and their teams. But so far only one has overcome the odds, returned to form, and is a big reason why his squad is in a playoff push.
The Giants need Jason Pierre-Paul to be their A-Rod.
While JPP has spent the summer recovering from a fireworks accident on July 4 that cost him his right index finger and other injuries to his hand, Rodriguez has been slugging the Yankees into postseason contention. Forget whether you were of the opinion that A-Rod would or would not ever wear pinstripes again, absolutely no one can claim to have predicted this kind of production from him. He hit his 29th home run Monday, has 77 RBIs, and has remained relatively healthy throughout the long season.
He's also stayed quiet, barely registering on even the ultra-sensitive instruments the New York media uses to measure tremors of controversy from its biggest names.
Now comes JPP in a somewhat similar role. He'll be ridiculed by opposing fans, questioned by reporters, and scrutinized both on and off the field. He'll have to stand there at some point, hold up his hand for the cameras, and say: "I did this to myself."
The best way to move past all of that is the A-Rod way: Produce.
Nobody -- not Pierre-Paul's agent, not even the Giants -- knows what he'll be able to accomplish this season. He may pick right up where he left off last season when he finished the year with 9.0 sacks in the final five games. Teammate Robert Ayers Jr. thinks he can because the biggest part of his game is his strength, not necessarily his handiwork.
Then again, he could be a shell of the player he was. All that potential the Giants had been patiently waiting for through his first five years with the team, that they caught glimpses of between back surgeries and shoulder injuries, could have gone kaplooey when that firework exploded.
To be fair, Pierre-Paul's situation seems to be the result of a one-time issue. Rodriguez has been caught in numerous lies and has admitted to cheating the game. He is chronically, well, A-Roddian.
Not so JPP, whose actions have been more toward the irresponsible than the villainous.
"It's just business as usual," Eli Manning said of the moment Pierre-Paul returns to the 53-man roster. "You get a guy who's back, he's been here. He's made plays. Obviously, circumstances occur, but we welcome everybody back. Hopefully he can come back and be healthy and play some good football for us."
General manager Jerry Reese has already struck a somewhat forgiving tone. The players were genuinely buzzing Monday about Pierre-Paul's imminent arrival. Fans are ready to see him take the field quickly.
But for him to truly fill the moat he dug this summer between himself and the team, it's coaches, and its fans, Pierre-Paul has to prove himself on the field.
It's not all about sentiment, of course. The Giants need Pierre-Paul desperately. Without him their defense looks lackluster. They don't have a Pro Bowl-level defensive lineman for the first time since Michael Strahan walked in the door, they do not have anyone who has ever reached double digits in sacks in a single season, and they don't have that one player in the front seven for whom every other team must account.
"We need a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul, certainly," Tom Coughlin said. "He's a guy that would add to our team provided he's healthy and he can play at the level he's played at."
That may be the only way the Giants get close to the playoffs this season. Their offense seems to be on the verge of dominance. If Pierre-Paul can bring the level of the defense up just enough, perhaps the team can go places.
It's happening in the Bronx this season where an outcast has returned to provide a surge and mend relationships. Why not in East Rutherford?
New York can forgive a lot from its athletes, provided they help the team win. A-Rod is learning that this season. JPP is on deck.