Tom Coughlin said the Giants are rooting for Jason Pierre-Paul in his comeback. On Thursday, they literally were.
The defensive end made a major leap in his progress in only his second day with the team, going from stretching and drills on the side with trainers to actual football reps with the rest of the squad.
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Pierre-Paul drew hoots and yells from his fellow defensive linemen as he completed mundane drills and tasks that they themselves had done -- largely without applause -- since the start of the season.
He showed no sign of being limited in any capacity, not even by his damaged right hand, which remained in the heavy white glove he wore on Wednesday.
He completed drills in which he grabbed a blocker and shed him to attack a ballcarrier, even tearing the jersey of blocker Robert Ayers Jr. at one point. He looked spry coming around the edge for a sack on a tackling dummy and then scooping up a fumble. And he drew the loudest cheers from teammates when he went through a maze of blocking bags, swinging left and right hands to push them away before cutting and tackling one last bag.
"He moved well [on Wednesday] and I think he proved to the medical people that he's in good shape," Coughlin said before the practice. "That's not to include all the back-and-forth, sideways stuff. He's going to have to work his way through some of that, too. But he's in excellent condition."
"He looked quick," said starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse, who lined up across from Pierre-Paul in team reps, which were not accessible to the media. "He looked good. He looked eager. Obviously, it's going to be a process for him and however he feels getting back on the field, but for his second day back [with the team] after all of the weeks being on his own, he looked quick."
Pierre-Paul may be making encouraging steps forward, but he still has a long journey ahead before he gets on the field in a game situation.
"It's going to take a little while," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said, tapping the brakes on the JPP-is-ready-to-go parade. "It's really early."
Pierre-Paul seems eager to play, and his new contract likely is one of the reasons. His base salary for 2015 is $1.5 million, about one-tenth of the guaranteed $14.8 million he would have received had he been uninjured and signed his franchise-tag tender in the summer. He can earn another $1.5 million for playing in the seven games after his two-week roster exemption. With playing time and production bonuses, he could get close to the $8.7-million prorated value of his franchise tag.
For now, though, Pierre-Paul remains just a practice player. And that may be enough.
"I think he was really, really moved, if the word is right, to be in the practice [Wednesday], to be stretching with the guys," Coughlin said. "I think that only gets better."
Eventually, he'll graduate to games, and that's when the Giants will have to decide how they can best use him. Because Pierre-Paul has not had time to digest the defensive scheme, Spagnuolo said he'll likely "limit the thinking" the end has to do and just let him loose on opposing quarterbacks.
"It's a good thing to try to figure out," Spagnuolo said. "I think he fits right in. Football is football."