EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Steve Spagnuolo has begun his second stint as the Giants' defensive coordinator much like he started the first, without his star defensive end participating in spring drills.
Jason Pierre-Paul was not on the field today as the Giants held the first of their three scheduled minicamp practices. JPP, designated as the team's franchise player in March, has not signed his one-year tender. He is thus technically not on the roster and cannot be fined or otherwise reprimanded for skipping a mandatory team function.
Spagnuolo said he has been in touch with the two-time Pro Bowler and team sack leader in three of the last four seasons.
"Not as much contact as I would like, but he is doing well," Spagnuolo said. "What is really hard when you come in new and you have a player in that situation is you want to start a rapport and a relationship, coach-player, and friendship. It makes it a little bit difficult, but we have all been through this. It is part of the league. We will just keep grinding away."
Spagnuolo has been through this before. In 2007, the year Spagnuolo debuted as a coordinator, defensive end Michael Strahan didn't report to the team until September 3. He was ostensibly deciding whether or not to retire.
That season, Strahan had 9.0 sacks and helped the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLII.
The Giants will sign up for a repeat of that scenario right now.
More immediately, they'd welcome the return of Pierre-Paul, who led the Giants with 12.5 sacks in 2014. JPP recently visited the Quest Diagnostics Training Center to speak with the coaches and learn the nuts and bolts of Spagnuolo's defense. But he has not been on the field with his teammates this spring, including the just-concluded organized team activities.
"Obviously, he is not here, but I have been in touch with him and he came up here and we met with him for a few days," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. "He has got a start of what is going to be expected when he gets here in the beginning of it, and we have been in touch with him throughout. Obviously, we'd like to have him here, but I don't get involved in that. He has got some of the stuff that we dished to him when he gets back."
Nunn was asked if Pierre-Paul has the Giants' defensive playbook.
"Not all of it, but I have fed him some of the stuff as we've gone and progressed through," Nunn said. "And he was here and I met with him probably four or five times, maybe even six or seven times. We kind of implemented some of the stuff and how it is going to be introduced when we get to training camp. I thought he had a very good grasp of it when he left and when he gets here, we'll start and that is where we'll begin."
But no amount of studying can replicate carrying out his assignments on the field.
"He is going to be behind, because there is a lot we are doing right now," Spagnuolo said. "But he had been around for a period of time. He did a little bit of the mental work, which I greatly appreciated. I thought that spoke volumes to who he is and what he is about and how important it is to him. Because it is new – terminology is big in this league on both sides of the ball. Hopefully, he is up to that challenge and we can get up to speed real quick."
Head coach Tom Coughlin did not want to discuss Pierre-Paul in great detail.
"All I know is that he is not here," Coughlin said. "That is all I know. He has been here for a couple of days. He spent a couple days in the classroom. He seemed to do well with the information that was given up to that point, but since he has left, he obviously has received nothing. All I know is that he is not here."
Since he was selected on the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Pierre-Paul has 42.0 sacks in five seasons, good for eighth place on the Giants' career list. That includes a career-high 16.5 sacks in 2011, the season the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI.
Spagnuolo believes Pierre-Paul is a premier pass-rusher.
"He looks pretty elite to me," Spagnuolo said. "Anybody can put a highlight film together and make a play look great. If you just watch tape with JPP out there, it is evident to me that he is an elite defensive end and fits a 4-3 system, which is exciting."
It will be once Pierre-Paul reports for duty. Training camp begins July 30.