Jason Pierre-Paul gave the Giants a warning about his plans.
“I’ve had this game checked off since I left there, so emotions are running big,” he said Wednesday. “I’m coming, man. I’m bringing the house down.”
It’s more than the Giants gave him about their plans. They blindsided the defensive end in March when they dealt him to the Bucs for what was essentially a third-round pick (the teams also swapped fourth-rounders in the trade). Now, as Pierre-Paul returns to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to face his former team for the first time, he’s carrying all of that with him.
“I was home, I was just getting up, getting ready to start my day, and I got a phone call from Dave Gettleman,” Pierre-Paul said. “I just got a phone call basically saying I’d been traded. That’s the way they went about it, with a phone call, and that was it.”
Pierre-Paul said he was not upset by the lack of communication, but he was surprised.
“Just the fact that the only thing I got was a phone call, you know what I’m saying? I didn’t speak to the owners or nothing,” he said. “Obviously, I gave a hard eight years at the New York Giants and won a Super Bowl there, and the only thing I got was a phone call? I won’t say I was hurt, but it was just shocking.”
That slight may be more perceived that realistic. According to a source, Giants co-owner John Mara texted Pierre-Paul the day after the trade to thank him for his time with the team and wish him well. Mara never received a reply.
Pierre-Paul did say he got a call from Eli Manning and messages from several other players, including Zak DeOssie and Landon Collins.
“You just thank him for being a great teammate, being a great player,” Manning said of their conversation. “You hate to lose guys you win championships with and did everything the right way. That’s the NFL, but just wanted to say I appreciate it.”
Determining who “won” the trade is complicated. Neither team is banging down the door to the playoffs and the Giants seem happy with rookie defensive tackle B.J. Hill, whom they selected with the pick they received from Tampa Bay. Hill has started every game this season.
“It was just an offseason business decision,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “You make it and you move on. I haven’t really thought much about it.”
The Bucs seem happy with Pierre-Paul.
“We’ve played against the Giants before, and of course we always had him as a game-wrecker,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “What we didn’t know is how good of a practice player he is. This guy works his tail off every day, helps the young guys, and then his leadership, the way he’s shared his experience and his knowledge with not only our defensive linemen but also our offensive linemen, he’s been very outspoken as a leader in a positive way.”
Koetter said Pierre-Paul will serve as a captain for the Bucs on Sunday.
“We knew the physical stuff,” he said, “but the intangibles he’s brought have been above and beyond expectation.”
Pierre-Paul has recorded eight sacks this season. The Giants have 10 as a team.
“Numbers speak for themselves,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’m playing great ball, obviously… New York felt like I couldn’t get the job done. I don’t know who makes those decisions, but that’s the decision they made and I got traded.”
He also knows that the Giants’ offensive line has allowed 32 sacks. Only two teams have allowed more.
“I wouldn’t say I’m licking my chops, but I know it’s a problem,” Pierre-Paul said. “But that’s not my problem. I’m on the Bucs and I’m doing a great job here and I’m loving it.”
Shurmur had to game-plan against Pierre-Paul numerous times when he was on the Eagles’ coaching staff.
“He plays a lot like he did when he was here,” Shurmur said. “He’s very disruptive. He’s very long. I think that’s the thing that makes him [difficult]. He’s got a good first step and he’s playing at a high level.”
Said Manning: “I expect him to be fired up, so hopefully we’ve got a game plan for him and make sure we try to control him.”
Pierre-Paul has been carrying the emotional weight of this game around with him for almost eight months. On Sunday, he’ll finally get a chance to relieve himself of it. And he’ll be able to get what he never received from that phone call in March: closure.
“I won a Super Bowl there, so no matter what, that’s home for me because that’s where everything started,” he said. “I’m just playing some great football and I’m just blessed to be getting the opportunity to keep on playing this game that I love. I’m going to walk away from it when I walk away from it, but until then, I’m just going to keep on being a great player that I am and obviously come Sunday, I’m going to go out there and do what I normally do: Go 110 percent and just fly to the ball.”