EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A Fourth of July fireworks accident cost Jason Pierre-Paul his right index finger, but he said today it will not affect his ability to be a productive defensive end for the Giants.
"I'm still the same Jason Pierre-Paul, skillset hasn't changed, probably got even better," Pierre-Paul said. "So I'm ready to play some football and help my team win.
"It's not going to be a major adjustment, you know what I mean? As far as my hand goes, I'll get used to it. I'm just fortunate enough to play football again."
The two-time Pro Bowler was not prepared to say when that will be. He will not play Sunday, when the 4-3 Giants visit the New Orleans Saints, the first of two games for which the Giants have a roster exemption for JPP.
"I don't know, that's in God's hands," Pierre-Paul said. "As far as my conditioning, even when I was in the hospital, probably like two weeks after, I was walking the flights, 15 flights (of steps). So I kept my conditioning up; lost weight, but gained all that back in no time. My conditioning is fine. When am I going to be ready to play? I don't know, time will tell."
Moments later, he added, "I know everybody is excited that I'm here. But as far as going out there, I'm not going to put myself in jeopardy. When I'm ready, I'm going to be ready, and I'm going to be able to fully go. Right now, I'm just taking it day-by-day. The trainers and people are just telling me to take it day-by-day."
Coach Tom Coughlin wants to get Pierre-Paul on the field as quickly as possible, but not rush him into uniform before he's ready.
"We'll advance him next week, and we will see where we are," Coughlin said. "And that's all we can say … Whatever you ask him to do, he does it in flying colors.
"I do want to get him out there soon; that's the whole idea. But I want him ready when he goes out there. I want him for the rest of the year."
Pierre-Paul stood by his locker in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center and answered questions from reporters for a little more than 12 minutes. They were his first detailed public comments since the accident. He declined to answer some questions, and offered expansive responses to many others.
JPP is aware many people are skeptical he can play at all, much less at the level that made him one of the NFL's finest pass rushers. He isn't concerned about them.
"I have the desire to prove nobody wrong," he said. "The day I walked in, I already won, you know? People said I was going to be out for the whole season, and I knew what kind of effort I put in in the offseason way before this happened. Just coming back, I already won."
Asked again about the confidence he has in his future effectiveness, Pierre-Paul said, "I'm still the JPP that was here last year. As far as my hand goes, it's just a hand."
Pierre-Paul said when he plays, he'll wear nothing more on his hand than a glove.
"Of course, it will be a special glove," he said. "I'm missing an index finger. But it's going to be a special
glove, but as far as wearing the glove, it's just a glove to play football. I don't want to be wearing a five-finger glove and it's just hanging, you know what I'm saying?"
Pierre-Paul did not go into much detail about the accident, though he indicated he will when he deems the time is appropriate.
"There's a lot of things I can say right now about what people have been saying or whatever," he said. "But I've got pictures and everything, so when it's time to let it out, I will. Like I said, somebody is going to get the story, I don't know who."
Now is not the right time, he said, because, "right now I'm here about football. I'm here to help my team win games, so it's not about me no more."
Pierre-Paul did say he didn't panic in the moments after the accident.
"It wasn't frightening at all," he said. "I'm not going to go into detail with it. It's something that I do every year for the kids, because when I was growing up, I was less fortunate to have fireworks. It just happened. I did it for six, seven years now. It happened, so it is what it is. I lived and learned from it and moved on.
"I wasn't worried at all. I wasn't in shock or nothing. I looked at my hand and my fiancé was going crazy, but I kept calm through the whole situation."
More than once, he thanked the Giants for supporting him throughout the ordeal.
"The Giants have always been a very caring organization," he said. "I think they did a great job. Through all the (distractions) I had here, the (distractions) I had for the team that I caused, I'll say that they did a great job of handling it. I thank them for giving me a second chance."
Pierre-Paul is also thankful for his teammates, who stood by him and greeted him with a standing ovation when he reported to the team on Wednesday.
"It meant a lot, because I knew I couldn't help my team win some games that they lost," he said. "Unfortunately, mistakes happen. But they've been very supportive to me and it meant a lot, you know what I'm saying? Thank God that they supported me through the whole situation and I'm here now."
After everything that's happened, the Giants still need JPP to perform in the field. Their nine sacks through seven games are the NFL's second-lowest total. With 42.0 career sacks, including 12.5 last season, Pierre-Paul could be the antidote for what ails the Giants.
"Just looking at the games, you can tell they needed a pass rusher," he said. "The guys were doing a great job. Unfortunately, I wasn't there. So I'm here now, and I've got a lot of work to do."
*Four Giants have been declared out of the game in New Orleans: wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf), cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral), defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring) and linebacker J.T. Thomas (ankle).
Cruz has yet to play a game this season, Amukamara will miss his third consecutive game, Odighizuwa will sit out for the first time since missing the season's first three games with a foot injury, and Thomas will miss his first game of the season.
Linebacker Jon Beason is questionable with an ankle injury.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), guard Geoff Schwartz (ankle) and linebacker Uani 'Unga (neck) are probable.