ALBANY, N.Y. – Don't try to convince Jason Pierre-Paul his life is different this year because he was a Super Bowl winner and an All-Pro in 2011.
"I'm just trying to be that 23-year-old kid, trying to make the football team like I don't even have a spot on the team," Pierre-Paul said today.
That's a common refrain for young players. But how can Pierre-Paul say that after finishing fourth in the NFL with 16.5 sacks – the fourth-highest total in Giants history – while establishing himself as one of the NFL's dominant defensive players last year?
"It's easy," he told a throng of reporters at the Giants' training camp at the University at Albany. "Just come out and work. Show the coaches that you are still trying to learn, because at the end of the day, you don't know it all."
But JPP is clearly picking it up quickly. Last year, he joined Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan as the only Giants with at least 16 sacks in a season. Taylor did it once – he had 20.5 sacks in his 1986 MVP season – and Strahan did it twice (an NFL-record 22.5 sacks in 2001 and 18.5 in 2003).
Pierre-Paul, the team's first-round draft choice in 2010, had five multiple-sack games: at Washington (9/11), at Philadelphia (9/25), vs. Seattle (10/9), at Dallas (12/11) and at Jets (12/24)…had at least a half-sack in 12 of the 16 games. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl and was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
JPP was twice selected NFC Defensive Player of the Week in December – when he was also named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.
But to him, all those gaudy accomplishments were little more than a preamble to what he can do in the future. Pierre-Paul said he's about "50 percent" of the player he can become.
"I can be a lot better," he said. "I'm still getting better. I'm still learning, and that's a good thing.
"I'm still improving. Trust me, I don't know it all. I still got a lot to learn about the game of football. I'm doing quite a good job of it, but I still got a lot to learn."
Pierre-Paul wouldn't predict how many sacks he'll get this season. If Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck remain healthy the entire season, it's possible his snaps will be reduced. Pierre-Paul knows opposing teams will try to stop him with more frequent double teams.
It's not a development that causes him to lose sleep.
"I was getting them last year," Pierre-Paul said. "That's not going to stop me. I'm just going to go out there and do my job. At the end of the day, I got a job to do, and that's what I'll do."
Assuming, of course, he makes the final roster.