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Jason Pierre-Paul excited to be playing in Tampa again

Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants looks on in

Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants looks on in the second half against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. — After eight seasons with the Giants, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is back here, playing in the same stadium where he starred in college, eager to prove himself again at age 29.

“It came unexpected, but at the same time, I’m very excited. I’ve got a lot to prove,” said Pierre-Paul, introduced Friday after the Bucs sent a third-round draft pick to the Giants to help improve their pass rush. “I still want to be elite. Before I leave here, I want to bring a Super Bowl here.”

Just a year ago, the Giants had given Pierre-Paul a four-year contract worth $62 million, after he had returned from a 2015 fireworks accident that severely injured his right hand, losing his index finger and part of his thumb. He said he worked hard to remind himself that he is “unstoppable” in returning as he did.

“It’s going to take a hell of a lot for me to get off that damn field,” he said.

He played more than 90 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps last season and finished with 81⁄2 sacks. But with a new general manager and new coach, Pierre-Paul was dealt away — the Giants will take a $15-million cap hit this year from a $20-million signing bonus given last year. He’ll earn $12.5 million from the Bucs this season, with no guaranteed money in the $27 million left on the final two years of his contract.

“One of the attributes we’re looking for in players is resiliency,” said Bucs general manager Jason Licht, whose team had an NFL-low 22 sacks last season. “It’s one thing that’s been on our mind a lot, what we’re looking for in a player. Jason defines resiliency. To come back from what he did, it’s the main thing that made him a big draw to us, why we would go after him.”

Pierre-Paul, from Deerfield Beach on Florida’s east coast, played one season at USF in Tampa, before becoming the Giants’ first-round pick in 2010. The Bucs haven’t had a player get 10 sacks in any season since 2005, and they hope he can perform better than the last veteran Giants end they brought in — Robert Ayers, who had 91⁄2 sacks with the Giants in 2015, totaled nine in two years with the Bucs and was released last week.

“This is a big deal,” Pierre-Paul said. “Tampa Bay is like my backyard. I’m very excited to be here and can’t wait to work with those guys.”

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