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Road to return begins as Jason Pierre-Paul is back at practice

jpp-practice-102815.jpg

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.** – Tom Coughlin spent most of his news conference today answering questions about a player who won't participate in the Giants' game Sunday against the Saints in New Orleans.


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Yes, the arrival of Jason Pierre-Paul was big news at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. After his opening statement, Coughlin was asked 16 consecutive questions about JPP, who yesterday signed a contract. That prompted Coughlin to say, "This has been a heck of a conversation about New Orleans. That's quite a game we're about to get involved in, as you well know. A very, very important game, as well."

But his focus on the game didn't prevent Coughlin from patiently answering all the queries about Pierre-Paul, who has not played this season because of serious injuries he suffered in a fireworks accident on July 4. With his team struggling to collect sacks, Coughlin would like to get his premier pass-rusher back as soon as possible. But he doesn't know when that will be.

"I'm being brought along just like everybody else," Coughlin said. "He will start with the medical team. He can do all the jog-thrus, he can be out there for whatever we're doing pre-practice, then he's going to slide off to the side with the medical people, be under their supervision. How long that lasts is really according to how well they feel he's able to proceed. He's told me that he's worked against bags, he's delivered blows on a board and done all of those things. When he came in he looked good. I asked him what he weighed, he said 268, and he was right on the money. So he's worked, he's been working. We'll just see how fast this comes along."

The Giants have received a two-game roster exemption for Pierre-Paul, which will cover their road games the next two weeks in New Orleans and Tampa Bay. It will expire prior to the Giants' home game vs. New England on Nov. 22. The Giants have their bye following that game, and resume action at Washington on Nov. 29.

The decisions regarding when JPP will make his 2015 debut will be made after he gets into football shape, learns Steve Spagnuolo's defense, and the athletic trainers and doctors deem him ready for action. This week, the Giants are just happy to have him back in the building, and on the field.

"We're all rooting for him, to be honest with you," Coughlin said. "He had a very traumatic experience, and he's done really what appears to be an outstanding job of preparing himself. He is mentally very upbeat, his attitude is outstanding. He's anxious to go and play right now, to be honest with you. But they're going to go relatively slow on that. It will be a wonderful thing to have him come back, get ready to play, and play and contribute, which is his plan. I kidded him about that when he first came back the other night. We kind of laughed with one another and talked about, 'Let's get started on that job.'

"(The players) looked forward to seeing Jason. He's excited about being here, and he's anxious to get started. I think that's a good thing and the rest of the guys picked up on that right away."

Pierre-Paul visited the Giants for the first time since the accident early last month, but had not progressed enough in his recovery to begin working with the team. But he has improved in the last seven weeks.

"He's healed significantly," Coughlin said. "The doctors feel that he can play and perform with his hand as it presently is."

The great unanswered question is how well Pierre-Paul will play. At his best, he is one of the NFL's most productive pass rushers. Last season, he had 12.5 sacks, the second-highest total of his career. JPP had 42.0 sacks in his first five seasons, two of which concluded with Pro Bowl selections.

Can he still be that player?

"I'm hoping he's as good as (that player)," Coughlin said. "You've studied him and you watched how he maneuvers when he does rush the passer, then he'll use that hand basically as he always has, not necessarily as a grabber, but as a club. … We'll see how many times he knocks the passer down."

Pierre-Paul must first learn Spagnuolo's defense, and get acquainted with teammates like Uani 'Unga, Landon Collins and Owa Odizhizuwa, players he has never worked with before.

"He's got quite a bit to catch up on," Coughlin said. "The terminology, sure. But he's already started on that."

Photos of players from Wednesday's Giants practice (10/28)

And JPP clearly arrived determined to do anything necessary to return to the field as quickly as possible and resume being a force on the defensive front.

"(He's) upbeat, very upbeat," Coughlin said. "Very excited, very glad to be here. Just as the first time he came until now, he's done everything he can to get back here. And he was in a good frame of mind the first time I saw him, as well. But this time, very good because he feels it. He senses that it's close and whatever we ask him to do, he can do it."

Now we'll see how quickly he can do it.

•  The Giants don't normally bring injured players to road games, but Coughlin is considering bringing JPP to New Orleans.

"I'll think about that some more depending on how this information goes in the next few days," Coughlin said. "Do I want him in an environment of competitiveness? Yes."

•  Odell Beckham Jr., who has missed most of the team's practices the last two weeks with a sore hamstring, will work today. So will 'Unga, who missed the Giants' victory over Dallas with a neck injury.

Not practicing: linebackers Jon Beason (ankle) and J.T. Thomas (ankle), guard Geoff Schwartz (ankle), cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf).

Schwartz is expected to work tomorrow, but Coughlin said neither Amukamara nor Cruz will be ready to play in New Orleans.

•  Tackle Will Beatty, who started practicing last week and is on the physically unable to perform list, "is going to get a little bit more, little bit more, little bit more, scout team work."

Playmakers on Saints first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

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