Jason Pierre-Paul said it would take "forever" to talk about his journey to Super Bowl LV with the Bucs, and he even joked that he might have to write a book about all that he has gone through in his career.
What began with a Super Bowl title in his second NFL season with the Giants — and was diverted by a fireworks accident that claimed most of the fingers on his right hand, a trade to the Bucs and a car accident that required neck surgery — has returned to the cusp of another championship a decade later.
So instead of going through that long litany, Pierre-Paul on Sunday summed it up about as succinctly as he could.
"I keep saying ‘Look where we’re at,’ but look where we’re at," he said after Tampa Bay’s 31-26 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. "Look where I’m at."
He’s not along for the ride, either. Pierre-Paul had two sacks of Aaron Rodgers in Sunday’s game, his first quarterback takedowns in five weeks. He is the only Pro Bowler on a Bucs team that is one win away from being the best in football.
"Listen, even now I’m battling stuff," he said. "Everybody is hurting. This is football. But man, I don’t care. I’m going to do whatever to get to this point with my teammates. So why not just put it all on the line? That’s how we played [Sunday]; we played with everything on the line, we played like our lives depended on it, because it really did. This is the last game before the Super Bowl, man. A lot of teams are sitting home right now."
One of them, of course, is the Giants. One of the first moves Dave Gettleman made after becoming their general manager was to trade Pierre-Paul to the Bucs in March 2018. The Giants sent him to South Florida in exchange for a third-round pick that wound up being defensive lineman B.J. Hill (the teams also swapped fourth-round picks in the trade).
"I was probably at the peak of my career," Pierre-Paul said of the timing of the trade. "It was hard, but at the end of the day, we have a job to do. Jason [Licht, the Bucs’ general manager] did a great job believing in me and bringing me here to Tampa, and look where we’re at right now."
At this point in his career, Pierre-Paul, 32, has played more regular-season games (78 versus 75) since his infamous fireworks accident than he did before it. At the time, it was considered a career-defining incident, but he never allowed it to be one.
"It never stops, man," he said. "My grind is tremendous. I just keep going. I have a motor that never stops. I’m happy and excited with where I’m at right now, where my teammates are at right now, and in life."
And Super Bowl LV? It might wind up being a chapter in that book of his.