Perry Fewell says Jason Pierre-Paul is no different from any of the 10 other players who will line up on defense for the Giants. All of the pieces need to function for the unit to work, the defensive coordinator said.
"They're all important," Fewell said.
But it's clear that if the Giants are to have success this season, their Pro Bowl defensive end has to play the way he used to play.
"JPP is a special player," Fewell said. "We need him to be special."
So far, Fewell has seen the kind of lighthearted fun from Pierre-Paul that was missing last year, when he was coming off back surgery, and even in 2012, when a dark cloud began to form over the dynamic player. He was struggling with double-teams, playing with pain in his back and not meeting the expectations that were set when he was on the verge of becoming a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
This summer, though, Pierre-Paul has been on the field early for practice, running routes as a goof and trying to cover speedy linebacker Jacquian Williams (even though Fewell insists that he isn't capable of doing so).
"That's the old JPP," Fewell said. "His attitude is good, his work ethic has been very good . . . He's having fun again in football."
With Pierre-Paul, that goes a long way.
"When he's got that smile on his face, then he'll get that hunger in his eye as we build up toward the week for games," Fewell said. "And I think you'll see the guy perform like he can perform."
And then everyone will be happy.