EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – All signs point to Jason Pierre-Paul making his 2015 debut Sunday at Tampa Bay. The defensive end is a full participant in practice. Tom Coughlin and JPP's teammates want him to play. Just moments into a session with reporters at his locker today, JPP said, "I am going to play on Sunday."
But in the NFL, as in life, nothing is guaranteed. And with kickoff four days away, the final decision has not been made.
"I've got to convince (Coughlin)," Pierre-Paul said. "It's up to the medical staff. They're taking me slowly. As of right now, I'm continuing to do the reps out there and getting the play calling.
"I want to play, yeah. But it's up to the medical staff; like I said, they're taking my slowly."
At his morning news conference, Coughlin said, "He'll practice today, he'll practice tomorrow. He'll get a good amount of reps and we'll take it from there."
Pierre-Paul's fellow defensive linemen have been energized by his return.
"He's not a normal player, he's not a normal person," end Robert Ayers said. "He's, in my opinion, a true specimen. He's still very gifted, his talents haven't gone anywhere. He's a huge talent, he has a lot of passion for the game, a lot of love for the game, and he's been working his butt off while he wasn't out here. He's really trying to catch up mentally and get in the groove of everything like that, but physically, the dude is a rare breed, so it's not surprising at all.
"He's our brother, and we know how much he brings to the table, how much he loves the game. To get him out there, that energy, that passion, and you've got another weapon out there. We know at any moment he can take over a game. When you've got that threat, it's always good for a team - offensively, defensively. Defensively and even the offensive side, you got a guy like that getting after the other team's quarterback, he can make a big play and swing the game and really change the momentum of the game. That's what he brings to the table. Personally, he's a great person. I'm excited to have him back."
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins lines up next to Pierre-Paul more than any other player.
"It's good to see him back out there," Hankins said. "He looks good, and he's anxious to play. Everybody is excited. He's been doing good in practice. I don't really feel like it's been much of a dropoff since his incident. Just to see him go out there and play a game is going to be a good moment for him."
As everyone knows, JPP hasn't played this year because he was involved in a fireworks accident on July 4 that severely injured his right hand, including an amputation of his index finger.
"Really, not that much has changed, that's the craziest thing," Hankins said. "For him to have that type of incident, for him to come back and be the same as he was when he left, that's just a blessing. I'm just happy for him to be back out there."
Pierre-Paul worked diligently to return to the field and reported to the Giants last week. If he does play up to his previous standards, the two-time Pro Bowler will provide exactly what the Giants need. The team is last in the NFL with nine sacks. JPP has 42.0 career sacks, including 12.5 last season.
"Put it all on me, huh?" Pierre-Paul responded when asked about upgrading the defense's pass rush. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team win. I'm starting off slow. I'm a little bit rusty - that's going to happen, (with) no training camp, no nothing. But when I'm out there, I'm giving it my all. I have no, 'I could work on this tomorrow.' That's not my mindset. It's do it now or do it never."
Although his injuries were severe, Pierre-Paul believes he is ready to play in a game.
"I think I'm okay," he said. "You never know until you're out there, that's why there's practices. I've been doing good in practice. Coming off any injury, you've just got to go out there and have that confidence. I feel confident in myself shooting my hand and doing what I do best - playing the run and getting back there pass rushing. So that's what's going to bring me back."
JPP said he will continue to play end on both sides of the line. But it will be different. He has a glove/wrap on his right hand. And he must learn to play without one finger, and two more that were seriously injured in the incident.
"Of course, there's going to be changes in my stance," Pierre-Paul said. "I'm right handed. It's something you've got to adjust to and I think I'm doing a pretty good job at it. Had a great coach (Robert Nunn) out there coaching me how to put my left hand and rush off that, so it is what it is.
"Just adjustments, that's it. I think I'm doing a great job at it, because I've been able to grab and shed tackles. It's just a big adjustment, but I'm okay, I'm doing pretty good. Skillset hasn't lost it, I haven't lost it. I'm out there doing what I can. Hopefully, I'll be out there Sunday."
If he is, Pierre-Paul said the player the Giants and their fans see will be very familiar.
"I know for a fact that I'm still the same JPP," he said, "getting to the ball, screen pass, running and chasing down, getting to the quarterback, playing the run. It's just that confidence I've got to get back, 'Hey, my hand is okay.' You've just got to do what you've got to do."
Pierre-Paul hasn't played in a game since last Dec. 28, when he had 2.0 sacks among his five tackles in the Giants' season-ending loss to Philadelphia. Now he is preparing to return to action in Tampa, where he played his final collegiate season at South Florida.
"I have some roots there, USF," he said. "I'm pretty sure people will be out there, too. But my main thing is here, walking out of that tunnel. And my son will be there, so I'll be playing for him.
"I already know it's going to be crazy. They've been waiting on me, I'm here, I've arrived. They say I can't, but I did. It's on me."