EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Up on a podium, Jason Pierre-Paul can’t stand still during an interview session. It’s the same kind of energy he brings to team meetings, the locker room and, most importantly, on to the field.
Pierre-Paul has rapid-fire answers for just about anything he is asked, from the state of the New York Giants’ defensive line to his own health to some missing teammates. Pierre-Paul knows one thing for sure: success for the Giants’ defense will depend a whole lot on his having a bounce-back season.
Not since the 2012 season has Pierre-Paul felt as good as he does now. He sees 2013 as a lost year, even though he played in 11 games. When a sackmaster gets to the quarterback only two times, that’s pretty much a waste of time.
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”First, I didn’t have a training camp last year,” said Pierre-Paul, who was plagued by shoulder and back problems. ”But I’m feeling great. I feel like my normal self. I’m running around, getting to the quarterback, stopping the run. I’m awesome. I’m at 110 percent really. I’m not really worrying about the back or shoulder, nothing. All is good.”
Uh, Jason, 110 percent? Where did the other 10 percent come from?
”My mind,” he replied, drawing laughs. ”I’m 110 percent I’m not worried about anything. My main goal is to start the season off healthy, which I am, get some preseason games in, and play some football. I feel like I’ve been out for a year.”
Heading into his fifth pro season, he can only point to 2011 as notably productive: 16 1-2 sacks. The Giants also won the Super Bowl that season.
But when he’s on his game, Pierre-Paul, 25, is a force. He has speed and strength to threaten quarterbacks, plays the run well, and enlivens his unit with his upbeat attitude.
”That (meeting) room is not quiet much,” defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. ”They cut up, but the one thing about that group is that they work hard. They worked hard in the offseason, they worked hard in OTAs. They’ve worked since they’ve left here. I like where we are right now.”
What Pierre-Paul might not like, but won’t harp on, is his expiring contract. He saw two of his mentors on the line, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, leave the Giants and get big money elsewhere.
Will thoughts of a new deal in New York perhaps inspire him, or maybe distract him?
”I’m not going to lie, seeing Tuck gone is on my mind a little bit,” he said, ”but at the end of the day I don’t worry about it. When I’m on that field, family matters or whatever, off-the-field issues, I’m not worried about it. When I’m on the field it’s all about my brothers and what I do best.
”Off the field, when you go home or whatever, that’s when you think about that stuff. Honestly, when I’m on the field I’m just out there playing football and doing my job.
”I always thought that I was going to be here next year, because I know how I play and I know what kind of game I bring when I’m on the field,” he said. ”I’m pretty sure everybody here knows it, too.”
Nunn knows that he likes what he’s seen so far from Pierre-Paul, who is a key to New York’s chances in the NFC East. The Giants live off the pass rush and have for decades. They have some solid veterans on the line, including free agent addition Robert Ayers, holdover Mathias Kiwanuka (who also has played outside linebacker) and tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson.
But Pierre-Paul is the man, and everyone on the Giants knows it.
”He looks good,” Nunn said. ”I don’t see any limitations. I don’t know about what percentage he’s at, that’s hard for me to calculate. But I see nothing that shows any kind of limitations. He really came in in good shape, good condition, good frame of mind, and is off to a really good start.”
NOTES: Top draft pick WR Odell Beckham Jr. was sidelined again by a sore hamstring. … Three young players from Arsenal, which faces the Red Bulls in New Jersey on Saturday, attended Friday and kicked around a ball – the American football kind – after the Giants’ practice. Chuba Akpom of Nigeria, Kristoffer Olsson of Sweden and Gedion Zelalem, who could soon become eligible for the U.S. national team, were on hand.
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