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Jason Pierre-Paul returns for Giants

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul looks to block

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul looks to block on an interception return. (Sept. 8, 2013) Credit: AP

ARLINGTON, Texas - Jason Pierre-Paul went from back problems to just plain back.

The defensive end, the Giants' most dynamic playmaker up front, saw his first game action of the year against the Cowboys in Sunday night's's opener at AT&T Stadium.

Pierre-Paul had back surgery in the spring, and the hope always was that he would be back in time for the opener. But he was coy this past week even as he participated in team practices.

An hour and a half before kickoff, Pierre-Paul was announced as one of the Giants' active players. He was officially listed as questionable when the team arrived in Dallas on Saturday.

Pierre-Paul had said he would prefer not to be a part-time player and come in only on third downs. But he also had not played in any preseason games and missed most of the practices until he was taken off the PUP list about 10 days ago. Conditioning, he said this past week, would be an issue for him.

Pierre-Paul has had impressive games in Dallas. Two years ago, he blocked a potential tying field-goal attempt in the final moments to preserve a Giants win. Last year he intercepted a pass from Tony Romo and returned it for a touchdown.

"JPP's one of the best defensive players in the league,'' Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said when Pierre-Paul's availability still was up in the air. "If he's not full strength, I still think he can be effective. If he's full strength, yes, he's definitely effective. He's had good games in Dallas . . . He's looked better and better each day.''

In early June, Pierre-Paul underwent a microdiscectomy to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. The approximation for recovery and rehabilitation was 12 weeks. On Tuesday, it will be 14 weeks since the surgery.

Also active for the Giants were fullback Henry Hynoski (knee) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (heel). Cruz scored in the second quarter on a 70-yard pass from Eli Manning.

Like Pierre-Paul, Hynoski missed the preseason after surgery (his was to repair an injury to his medial collateral ligament and a chip fracture to the lateral plateau that occurred on the first day of OTAs in May). He was projected as questionable coming into the game.

Cruz was listed as probable but had not played in a game since bruising his heel early in the second preseason game against the Colts.

The inactive Giants included three players who already had been ruled out -- center David Baas (knee), guard David Diehl (thumb) and tight end Adrien Robinson (foot) -- plus quarterback Ryan Nassib, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive ends Damontre Moore and Adewale Ojomo. Moore missed time this preseason with a bruised shoulder and was limited in practices this past week.

On the Cowboys' side, defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) was inactive. George Selvie took his starting job and lined up against Giants rookie right tackle Justin Pugh. Selvie was at the Giants' rookie minicamp in May as a tryout but did not make the team.

As expected, the Giants started with Kevin Boothe at center and James Brewer making his first NFL start at left guard.

Thomas comes back.Cornerback Terrell Thomas was on the field for a regular-season game, 980 days and two ACL surgeries since his last real action. He has said he is vying for NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors but was thrilled just to make the Giants' roster and be the second known player to play an NFL game after three ACL reconstructions (he had one in college).

"It was humbling for me that I overcame so much and am able to be in this position,'' he said. "I've done enough overcoming two ACLs and I'm just happy to be back.''

Thomas lined up as the nickel cornerback, and even though he started the preseason on PUP, he had no limitations coming into the game.

"We think he's ready,'' Fewell said. "We're not going to shy away from putting him on the field. We believe that he's going to go out and prove himself and we like the way he's looked in practice as well as the preseason games. It's game time.''

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