Balzer on the NFL: Pierre-Paul’s return was earned

Howard Balzer

January 02, 2016 at 11:38 am.

Dec 20, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) reacts after blocking a pass by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Giants 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 20, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) reacts after blocking a pass by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Giants 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New Year’s Day was not only the start of a new year for New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, it was also his 27th birthday. Pierre-Paul can only hope that 2016 is whole lot better than 2015.

The July 4 fireworks incident that left him with a damaged right hand and caused him to play this season with a large “club” covering his hand has been well-chronicled. But Pierre-Paul still refuses to discuss the details of what happened.

However, just the fact he was able to come back and play with any degree of effectiveness is impressive. He did talk recently about his comeback and how much he believes he will improve heading to next season.

“I have lot of work (to do) in offseason,” he acknowledged. “As you see on film you can see the club is preventing me from making tackles. Last week there were a couple of plays I could have made, that I could have made the tackles, but I was limited. Once I move away from the club, I’ll be perfectly fine.”

Although he is missing fingers and half of his thumb, Pierre-Paul said his recovery after back surgery a few years ago was harder.

He said, “I think my back was more challenging because I couldn’t get off the way I wanted to get off, turn the corner the way I wanted to turn the corner. It took a long time for me to trust myself, to say, ‘Hey look, either you’re gonna keep babying your back, or you’re gonna turn this corner and if it breaks, it breaks’

“I think that was my most severe injury, even though I’m missing fingers and have half a thumb or whatever. My hand doesn’t stop me. At the end of the day it is a hand injury and you really notice how much you need it after it’s gone, but the reality is it’s not stopping me from playing great football and it can only get better from here.”

He believes that because of offseason surgery that is planned, noting that the club had to be worn because when he tries to make a fist, he can’t totally bend his middle finger.

“Once I have my surgery. I’ll be fine,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’m excited to get it done. That’s something I knew I was going to have to get done at the end of the season and I’m very excited to get it done and move on, rehab and get back to playing good football.”

There was also another poignant reason that Pierre-Paul said he was able to be positive after the injury. He told the story of how his father handled losing his sight before his son was born.

He said, “To be honest, if my daddy wasn’t such a great role model, I don’t think I would have made it. He’s never seen me. So this is little compared to what he’s been through. My friend’s father is blind and he gave up on life. My dad is still functioning and is happy as he can be.”

Of course, he is also facing the uncertainty of his contract situation. Tagged as the Giants’ franchise player at $14.8 million, Pierre-Paul eventually signed a one-year, $3 million deal that also included incentives.

Now, the Giants can franchise him again, try to sign him to a new deal or just have him become an unrestricted free agent in March.

He concluded, “I know my worth; I’m not worried about that. “I know what I bring to the table and I think everyone else does too. I’m going to leave it up to my agent. I’m just trying to get my rehab done and be a better player.”

Coaching Carousel

It appears that the fate of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell could be left in the hands of whoever the team hires as its new general manager.

One player hoping Caldwell returns is wide receiver Calvin Johnson, although there has been speculation Johnson might not be back because of a mammoth cap charge in 2016.

Still, Johnson said of Caldwell, “I love him. I think everybody in the locker room would probably say the same thing. He commands respect, but he doesn’t have to do much. It’s just his character, guys gravitate towards him. He’s easily one of my favorite coaches I’ve had.

“It’s just him being him and his character. Guys see that he’s a great person, he’s a great coach, and guys are going to fight for that. Yeah, we didn’t start like we wanted to, but we’re doing our best to finish the best that we can, and it’s just him being him. He doesn’t have to do anything extraordinary. He’s a great coach, just the way he communicates to you, and not that he demands respect, but he gets respect.”

*Eagles tackle Lane Johnson is looking forward to likely playing in a more NFL-style offense with Chip Kelly gone as head coach. The reality of Kelly’s up-tempo system is that it can wear out not only the offensive players but also the defense that is on the field too much. In Kelly’s three seasons, the Eagles were consistently at the bottom for average of time of possession, meaning the defense was on the field often for 10 minutes a game more than the offense.

Said Johnson, “I want to get back to a more traditional style of offense. I’ve been running this tempo (style) since college. I’m pretty (—-) tired. It takes its toll on you. Bigger guys like me, it’s harder on your joints. A lot of pounding. Your hips. Your back. All you’re doing is torqueing all day.”

Simply Noting

Speaking of franchise players, it’s no secret that Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant’s season was adversely affected by not being involved in the offseason and then missing training camp work with a hamstring injury. That was followed by foot and ankle injuries that required surgery. Said head coach Jason Garrett, “Dez was a really capable, confident football player this year for us. He had to deal with a lot of different things. Missing the offseason and having a number of different injuries, he didn’t get the best opportunity to prepare and play like he normally does. I think that hurt him and ultimately hurt our football team.”

*Are the Arizona Cardinals the most complete team in the NFL entering the playoffs? They just might be. One reason is the emergence of rookie running back David Johnson. The team’s director of college scouting, Dru Grigson, told the story of how he took a first-hand look at Johnson at Northern Iowa at the suggestion of scout Mike Boni. Grigson liked what he saw and the team selected him in the third round of the draft. Still, it was unknown how quickly he would adjust to the pro game.

Said Grigson, “When you have a small-school guy, you have to make sure they match up physically. And he had all those attributes – size, speed, instincts and feet. He has good contact balance and he’s able to accelerate. He’s got juice. It’s tough to say what a rookie is going to do. He’s exceeded all expectations. We were hoping we’d see this type of back two, three years down the road. He’s come in and done it in year one.”


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