Jason Pierre-Paul has been looking to the past for visions of his old self. He's been poring over tape from 2011 and 2012, watching himself dominate offenses and terrorize quarterbacks.
He and others -- such as Tom Coughlin -- are only now starting to see some flickers of that Pro Bowl player as he continues to recover from back surgery. But even Pierre-Paul says the next time he looks like the player he was in the past might be in the future. Like sometime in 2014.
"I know for a fact that it's going to take a whole offseason to get my strength back," Pierre-Paul said Thursday. "It really is going to take that whole offseason to get back to the old JPP. But he's not gone."
Pierre-Paul had two quarterback hits in Monday night's win over the Vikings, bringing his season total to five. He's had only one sack this season, and it came in the opener against the Cowboys. He's gone six straight games without tasting quarterback flesh, the second-longest such streak of his career since he became a defensive starter; he went the final seven games of 2012 without a sack.
Pierre-Paul said he felt good last season even though his numbers were down, and he still was widely considered one of the league's top run-stoppers. But he had back surgery in the spring and he missed all of training camp and the preseason.
Even though he said he still is experiencing some pain in his back, and even though it clearly is impacting his 2013 season, Pierre-Paul said he does not regret having the surgery.
"I probably wouldn't have made it through half of the season this year," he said. "I probably would have been having the surgery right now. I think I did the best thing."
He also left open the possibility that he will come back to past levels of success this year, although he repeatedly stated the idea of needing a full offseason of strengthening. And he said expectations that he would return and go right back to 2011 form were comical.
"It takes time," he said. "I wasn't expecting myself to come out and be Superman. It's ridiculous if anybody thought that was going to be possible."
Still, the Giants surely were expecting a little bit more than what they have gotten.
"I think he got a little better the other night," Coughlin said. "I'm hoping that it continues. It's still not where we want him to be, but I thought I saw some things that were a sign in the right direction."
Some of that was quickness and an ability to shed blockers. Pierre-Paul said he sees himself catching too many opponents and not going around them or through them.
"I'm not being an opposing threat to them how I used to be," he said. "That's basically it."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell wouldn't comment on how long it will take Pierre-Paul to return to superstar form.
"He could have a breakout game this week and we'd say: 'Oh, he's back,' " Fewell said.
Or he could keep showing glimpses that only tease the Giants and their fans until he's had that full offseason of core strengthening to fully put the surgery behind him.
"I'm a great player, I'm one of the best defensive ends in the league, and I honestly think that," Pierre-Paul said. "I don't question myself over what happened or why it's going like this. I just go out and play my game.
"I'm just trying to get better, back to my old self," he said. "That's really it."