Jason Pierre-Paul’s mangled right hand is irreparably damaged, but that didn’t stop the Giants defensive end from saying Tuesday that the most glaring hindrance to his 2015 season will not be an issue in 2016 and that his hand “can be perfectly fine” for the upcoming season.
Those words — “perfectly fine” — have a number of shades of meaning when it comes to JPP’s hand. He had his right index finger amputated and lost the tips of his thumb and middle finger after a fireworks accident on July 4. He had an offseason surgery on his middle finger that he hopes will improve his grip and allow him to shed the club-like wrap he used throughout his nine games last year. And he admitted Tuesday that he will have to continue rehabbing his hand for the rest of his life.
“It is nowhere close where I need it to get right now,” Pierre-Paul said on a conference call, “but at the end of the day it will be before the season starts.”
That may be more offseason optimism than reality, but only time will be able to tell them apart. Pierre-Paul recently posted video of himself on social media bench pressing with the hand — a signal that he is able to grip at least a weight-lifting bar — and reiterated he intends to drop the club-like wrap that hampered him in 2015. He also said he intends to be with the team from the start of its offseason program April 11 until the season ends.
“I am more excited of actually getting in during training camp and OTAs and minicamp and actually starting on time,” he said. “I’m already training and coming in and having a full training camp and getting into the season the very first game. When I step on the field in that first game, I have to achieve everything that I want to achieve and I have to stay healthy and play the whole 16 games, which I should be [able to].”
The Giants’ acquisitions in free agency, particularly the two big additions to the defensive line, have ignited a lot of enthusiasm within the organization. After spending more than $75 million in guaranteed money on Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon, the front group is expected to do big things this season. Pierre-Paul, though, said he’s not as concerned about them as he is about his own situation.
“At the end of the day, I’m more worried about myself,” he said. “It starts with yourself first when you play football. You have to do all the right things and put yourself in the best position before the season starts . . . It’s all about the person and what they bring to the team, so with these new guys that we got I am happy that we got them and now it’s time to do work.”
Pierre-Paul’s phone call to Vernon last week helped push him to the Giants, so he is aware of the significance the new pass-rusher can bring to the team. But one reason JPP may be reining in his enthusiasm, at least publicly, could be that Vernon and Harrison represent tangible reminders of exactly how many millions of dollars Pierre-Paul’s fireworks accident actually cost him. Pierre-Paul received a significant guarantee in his new contract from the Giants at $8.5 million; Vernon could earn 10 times that amount if he plays out his five-year contract with the Giants.
Pierre-Paul said one of the reasons he re-signed was a familiarity with the Giants’ system. He knows his 2016 season will determine whether his NFL future is rags or riches. Learning a new playbook in a make-or-break year would only make his comeback more difficult.
“I’m just excited that I have a chance to play football, man,” he said. “Do what I love to do, come back to New York and play one year and show the fans and show everyone in the organization that Jason Pierre-Paul can still play some ball.”
Tackle Penn to visit. Free-agent left tackle Donald Penn will visit the Giants this week, according to a source. Penn is believed to want to return to the Raiders, but the sides reportedly are some distance apart in negotiations.
The Giants expressed interest in improving their offensive line when they hosted free agent Russell Okung last week. Okung is still mulling his choices, but at least one option may no longer exist. The Steelers signed Ryan Harris on Tuesday and reportedly have rescinded their offer to Okung. The Giants, Lions and Okung’s former team, the Seahawks, are believed to be in the running for his services.