Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul intercepts a pass intended for...

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul intercepts a pass intended for Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones during the first half of their football game in Arlington, Texas. (Oct. 28, 2012) Credit: AP

Jason Pierre-Paul crouched on the sideline like a catcher, a white towel draped over his neck. As a player on the physically unable to perform list, he's not allowed to participate in practices. So instead, he just looked longingly at his teammates as they held their first practice of training camp.

And his teammates looked back. Just as longingly.

The Giants' best defensive player will be on the shelf for at least the next few weeks after having back surgery on June 4. While he is noncommittal about being ready for the regular-season opener against the Cowboys on Sept. 8, the thing Pierre-Paul is most excited about is returning at some point without the pain in his back that he's played with -- and been hampered by -- for the past two seasons.

That he was able to take that squatting position without pain may have been his most important rep of camp so far.

"The whole discomfort is gone," he said. "When I sit down, I don't have that pain anymore. When I am standing up, I don't have that pain. I can stand up straight. Basically everything is gone. That's a good thing. I'm doing pretty good."

The defensive end said he is at about 75 percent now. He wouldn't put a number or percentage on how much his back bothered him last year and in other seasons, but he said it was painful for him to get into his three-point stance for every play. Last year he took three shots to get him through the season. Doctors originally prescribed core strengthening to help alleviate the discomfort, but this spring they decided that surgery was the best option.

The timeline for his return originally was established at 12 weeks. On Tuesday it will be eight. Even though he's not on the field with them, the Giants are pleased by his progress.

"What he's allowed to do, he does well," coach Tom Coughlin said, noting that Pierre-Paul is within a few pounds of his playing weight.

Still, there's no guarantee that Pierre-Paul will be back for the start of the regular season. And he seems OK with that.

"A back is a really, really horrible thing to have, back surgery, and you don't want to rush back," he said. "I'm not concentrating on the first game, the second game, the third game, fourth game, fifth game, sixth game. I'm just trying to come back when I feel like I'm ready to come back."

More Giants

Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months