You won’t have to worry about Jason Pierre-Paul this Fourth of July.
“I’ll be gone,” the Giants defensive end said of the holiday coming up next month. “I won’t even be in the United States. Where I’m going, they don’t celebrate the Fourth of July.”
But they’ll still have one wherever he ends up, even if it is a lowercase fourth and not tied to Independence Day.
July 4 forever will be the anniversary of last year’s fireworks accident that mutilated his right hand and nearly cost him his career — and his life. It will take more than a passport for him to escape that memory.
What he can do, though, is distance himself from the behavior that led to the firework blowing up in his grip. Instead of his usual holiday schedule — which, as we learned last year, traditionally included a show of pyrotechnics for kids from his neighborhood — he’ll be far away from any short fuses.
“I’m just leaving, living my life,” he said. “What am I going to do, pop some more fireworks?”
It’s all part of a new normal for JPP, who finds he cannot do all of the things he used to be able to do with so much carefree enthusiasm — everything from lifting weights to wrapping up quarterbacks to lighting up the South Florida sky with a U-Haul full of colored gunpowder.
But he’s adapting. That’s been very clear on the football field this spring.
“I will never be completely back to normal,” he said on Monday after a Giants organized team activities (OTA) practice. “But I’m doing everything that they ask me to do. I won’t say it’s normal, but it’s normal to me.”
At the very least, it is becoming more comfortable. Pierre-Paul has been able to resume weight training, thanks to a number of apparatuses that help him grip the bars. And his new glove, custom-made to accommodate his fully and partially missing fingers, seems to be gaining his trust on the field as he uses it in the workouts.
It’s still just OTAs — there is no tackling and no blocking — but the Giants like what they are seeing.
“You can tell,” coach Ben McAdoo said of Pierre-Paul’s progress. “He’s definitely improved his fundamentals and things. He looks like he’s a lot more comfortable . . . He’s been able to hit the weight room and go out and practice fundamentals with [his hand] for a year. Obviously, he is ahead of the game that way.”
“He’s bulked back up and you can see he is getting more accustomed to using his hand in the state that it’s in,” said right tackle Marshall Newhouse, who has gone against Pierre-Paul in most practices this spring.
Pierre-Paul said the biggest difference for him will be using the glove instead of the bulky club that was required last season. It will allow him to grab opponents when tackling, something that stood out last year when he was able to get to the plays but not always make them.
“He’s always been a very disruptive player,” McAdoo said, “and we expect that to continue.”
It’s still almost another month until the anniversary of the accident.
“It seems longer for what I had to do,” Pierre-Paul said. “Put yourself in this situation. You all would be going through the same process. Some of you would probably be down. But with me, when I overcame that situation and I’m lifting weights and I’m back doing what I’m doing, I’m happy.”
He’ll likely be thinking about that this year on July 4, in whatever non-fireworks corner of the world he decides to plant himself for his vacation.
“I’ve overcome a lot of things in my life,” he said, “and that will be something that I overcame and put it behind me.”
Notes & quotes: WR Dwayne Harris and DE Olivier Vernon were among the players who were not at Monday’s OTA, which is a voluntary event. McAdoo said all have communicated with him and that he expects them back for Tuesday’s workout. Next week the Giants won’t be so lenient. They will hold their mandatory veteran minicamp on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday . . . Rookie S Darian Thompson ended a lively two-minute drill with an interception of a tipped pass by Eli Manning intended for Odell Beckham Jr.