EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.** – Jason Pierre-Paul won't be in uniform on Sunday, but that doesn't preclude him from having a positive influence on the Giants.
"Our D-line is more complete now," defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. "Instead of having to answer the questions of when he'll be back, and if and all this stuff, he is back now. He's back with the group, and now it's just a matter of waiting until he's game ready."
When that time will be is unknown. It depends on how quickly JPP gets into football shape, learns the team's defensive schedule, and adjusts to the reality of playing football without his right index finger, which was amputated after his fireworks accident on July 4 in Florida.
For now, the Giants are happy Pierre-Paul is back with his football family. When coach Tom Coughlin announced his arrival in a team meeting this morning, the players stood and cheered for their friend and teammate.
"It's good to have him back," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Hopefully, he can get back into playing shape and football shape, and get back on the field soon. Until that, we've just got to keep going about our business. I know it's good to have all your players, good to have him back in the locker room, and hopefully he can help us out."
"It was awesome to walk into the locker room (and see JPP)," wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "There's been so much that goes on, and there's so much about it. For him to finally be back, and just be able to see him here and he's got a smile on his face, it's great to have him back. We're definitely excited to have him back."
Pierre-Paul engaged in the customary banter with his linemates in the D-line meeting room as if he'd never been absent.
On the field, Pierre-Paul participated in the pre-practice work before retreating to the side to work with the Giants' athletic trainers. The team has a two-game roster exemption for Pierre-Paul. It is unknown when he will make his season debut, but when he does, his teammates know exactly what to expect.
"If I go off his track record, when he's ready, I think he'll be the same hungry, relentless player that we've all been playing with," said defensive end Robert Ayers. "I've played with him for a year, and I've yet to see him ever get tired. That's just the type of person he is. He plays hard all game, every game. He practices hard all practice, every practice. So when he's ready and the training staff lets him off the leash, I expect for him to be the same person. I can't predict stat-wise, but I expect him to be the same person that he's always been - relentless, hungry, aggressive, talented, super agile, mobile. I expect for him to be all those things, and I'm looking forward to seeing it."
So is everyone who wants the Giants to win. The team is 4-3 as it prepares to travel to New Orleans. But its pass rush could use an infusion of … well, JPP. He is one of the NFL's foremost tormenters of quarterbacks. Pierre-Paul has 42.0 career sacks, including team-leading totals of 16.5 in 2011 and 12.5 last season.
Without him, the pass rush this year has not been up to the Giants' usual standards. The defense has registered only nine sacks, the NFL's second-lowest total. When he takes the field, Pierre-Paul should provide exactly what the Giants are missing.
"It's no secret that we haven't rushed the passer as well as we'd like to," Jenkins said. "I feel like that's something that he definitely brings to the table, will definitely instantly help us with.
"We know what we are up front, we know what we've been, we know what our strengths and weaknesses have been, and he can definitely come and help out and help us improve with some of our weaknesses as a D-line."
But for Jenkins and the other players, JPP's future contributions on the field today took a back seat to the happiness they felt for their friend's return.
Photos of players from Wednesday's Giants practice (10/28)
"I'm not thinking about his play, I'm just happy that he's here and just happy that he and the team worked things out," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "I think it was good for a couple of his close friends just to talk to him. I know it was hard to get in contact with him ever since the incident. Just to talk to him and ask how his kid is doing, ask how his family is doing. Most importantly, just ask how he's doing and stuff like that. What I get from him, he's just excited to be back, excited to work, and to be the force that he knows he's capable of being and that we know."
"I feel like it (JPP's welcome) should be an open arms thing," Jenkins said. "I know it is for me.
I'm just glad to see him back."
• Amukamara, who has missed the last two games with a partially torn pectoral muscle, said he will have an MRI on Monday, a day after the Giants play in New Orleans. He hopes it shows enough progress for him to return to the field next week.
• Beckham fully participated in practice today. The previous two weeks, he had missed most practices and was limited when he did work with a sore hamstring.
"I think we're back to the normal routine," Beckham said. "I don't really quite know yet, but I definitely do feel better."
Linebacker Uani 'Unga was limited because of the neck injury that forced him to miss the Dallas game.
Amukamara was joined by five the players on the did-not-practice list: wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf), linebackers Jon Beason (ankle) and J.T Thomas (ankle), guard Geoff Schwartz (ankle), and defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring).
Tom Coughlin said Schwartz will practice tomorrow, and Cruz will not play in New Orleans.
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