EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For eight years, Eli Manning stood safely on the sideline when Jason Pierre-Paul pursued, harassed and sacked opposing quarterbacks. This week for the first time, Manning will be the quarterback JPP hopes to bring down.
Pierre-Paul now does his sacking for the 3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will visit MetLife Stadium on Sunday to face the 2-7 Giants, who defeated San Francisco Monday night, 27-23. He leads the Bucs and is tied for eighth in the NFL with 8.0 sacks.
"JPP was a great teammate," Manning said. "He's having a great year. He's getting a lot of sacks and making plays. I expect him to be fired up. Hopefully, we got a game plan for him, and make sure we try to control him."
That won't be easy, because Pierre-Paul made it clear on a conference call today that he will be fired up to play his former team.
"I had this game checked off since I left there, so emotions running big," he said. "I'm coming, man. I'm bringing the house down."
Pierre-Paul, a first-round draft choice in 2010, had numerous big games wearing Giants blue. He led the 2011 Super Bowl champions with a career-high 16.5 sacks and, that year, made the first of his two Pro Bowls. JPP's 58.5 sacks place him seventh on the Giants' career list.
But on March 22, Pierre-Paul was traded to the Buccaneers for a fourth-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
One of the first Giants players to reach out to him was Manning.
"You just thank him for being a great teammate, for being a great player," Manning said. "The way he practiced, the way he competed, the way he came back after his injury and fought, and did everything to come back, and be a part of the team, and play well. You hate to lose guys you win championships with and does everything the right way. That's the NFL, but I just wanted to say I appreciated him as a person and as a player."
Pierre-Paul was grateful for that call and others he received from his former teammates.
"Eli called me and also Zak DeOssie had texted me," JPP said. "Landon Collins wrote me, a couple guys I was very close to, but with Eli, it's different because I've been there and knowing what he has done, I had the opportunity to actually win a Super Bowl with him and that's awesome to say that you did that. It meant a lot to me, because Eli is a stand-up, world class guy and no matter what, he's all about football and he always wants to win. Eli is Eli."
But on Sunday, their friendship will take a three-hour hiatus and Pierre-Paul will try to add Manning to the long list of quarterbacks he has sacked.
At 6-5 and 275 pounds with uncommonly long arms, Pierre-Paul has the length, speed and desire to put a crimp in any offense's plans.
"There's plenty of people with length," said left tackle Nate Solder, who will be primarily responsible for blocking JPP. "I think it's the quality of the player. He can move great, he understands football, he plays really well, he has great ability, absolutely."
"He plays a lot like he did when he was here," coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's very disruptive. He's very long and I think that's the thing that makes him. He's got a good first step and he's playing at a high level. He's doing a good job."
The Giants will do their best to ensure that isn't true on Sunday.
*The Giants had a walk-thru today less than 48 hours after their Monday night victory in San Francisco. The projected normal practice status for players with injuries was: Safety Curtis Riley (shoulder) and fullback Eli Penny (back) — did not participate. Linebacker Alec Ogletree (rib) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (hip) — limited.
"I would just attribute it to basically just some game wear and tear," Shurmur said. "Nothing to be too concerned about with anybody, so we'll just see how tomorrow goes when we're out here moving around full speed."
*At the practice, the Giants hosted a group of Wounded Warriors, who had an opportunity to greet the players after practice.
"We certainly appreciate everything the people in the Armed Forces have given, especially the people that sacrificed so much," Shurmur said, "so we're going to try to embrace them today."
*The Giants signed defensive back Kenny Ladler to their practice squad. A 6-1, 200-pounder, Ladler played in five games earlier this season for Washington, which released him on Nov. 6. His previous NFL experience was two games in 2014 with the Buffalo Bills, who signed him as a rookie free agent from Vanderbilt that year.
Before joining Washington, Ladler played two seasons for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos. In 2016, he played in 17 games and had 70 tackles and two interceptions. Last year, he was selected a first-team All-CFL All-star linebacker after recording 86 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
*The Giants, in partnership with Stop & Shop, will host their 22nd annual food drive at MetLife Stadium when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Fans are encouraged to bring canned or non-perishable food items and donate them into collection bins that will be located at all stadium entry gates.
All contributions will be donated to the Food Bank for New York City for distribution to local partner charities in the area. This year more than ever support is needed, as it is getting increasingly more difficult for those in need to put food on their table.
Since 1997, the Giants' annual food drive has helped feed thousands of hungry families during the holiday season. Thanks to the generosity of Giants fans, about 5,000 pounds of canned or non-perishable food is collected each year.