Jason Pierre-Paul Poised To Become The NFL’s Greatest Comeback Story In What Could Be His Final Season As A Giant
By Neal Lynch
For the first time, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul spoke openly and in detail about the night he nearly blew his entire hand off in a July 4th fireworks accident at his sister’s place in Miami, Florida. He’s now poised to become the NFL’s Greatest Comeback Player.
This exclusive video from Sports Illustrated shows some very graphic images of JPP’s hand from the moments immediately following the explosion to the numerous surgeries at the hospital. We’d seen images before, but those pale in comparison to what’s depicted in the video.
When Giants players, coaches, and executives said it was a miracle that Pierre-Paul played at all last season, we nodded, but couldn’t truly comprehend the extent of the damage or the determination required to get back on the field. After watching the SI video, JPP’s return wasn’t just a miracle, but it’s the stuff of legends.
With his most recent surgery, Jason Pierre-Paul looks to improve the grip in his right hand and remove the mitt that inhibited his performance in 2015. The consensus has been that JPP will never return to his Pro Bowl form in 2011 and 2012. How could he? How can someone with less than two full paws compete with himself at two fully functional hands?
Surely, there will be offensive linemen that don’t take him seriously. Though, he was impaired, JPP still was able to generate more pressure than the players who took his place during his absence over the first eight weeks. Opposing coaches would be wise to remind those O-linemen that JPP is a man on a mission, to prove his worth in what could be his final season as a Giant.
But, what would it take for Jason Pierre-Paul to be recognized as the NFL’s greatest comeback story? Has anyone in the history of the league ever lost an appendage and not only continued to play but at a high level? Tons of NFL players – most notably Ronnie Lott and Torry Holt both severely broke fingers to the point of them being permanently bent. Former Giants lineman David Diehl has shown the irreversible destruction done to his digits. But a missing appendage?
Frank Gifford won the United Press International Comeback Player of the Year award in 1962 after ending a one-year retirement.
Ottis Anderson won the Pro Football Weekly Comeback Player of the Year the season before his Super Bowl XXV MVP performance. Prior to 1989, Ottis hadn’t started more than 8 games since 1984 and hadn’t played in more than 12 games since 1981.
There have been plenty of other great comeback stories. Tom Brady coming back from that brutal knee injury in 2008 to lead the New England Patriots to the playoffs in 2009. Peyton Manning coming back from his career-threatening neck injury in 2011 to lead the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. Just this past season, Eric Berry beat cancer to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to the postseason.
Next: Top 5 Remaining Free Agent Wide Receivers
My prediction is if Jason Pierre-Paul can play the entire 2016 season, collect eight or more sacks, plus at least 40 total tackles, a few forced fumbles and several passes batted down, his status as the NFL’s greatest comeback story of all-time will be hard to argue.