EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jason Pierre-Paul was a young star on the 2011 New York Giants -- the last Giants team to win the Super Bowl. As a second-year player, he looked up to established teammates such as Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, who helped anchor the pass rush of that team and the one that knocked off the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl four years earlier.
They all remain close, and after Pierre-Paul injured his right hand in a fireworks accident on July 4, Umenyiora reached out to him to see how he was doing. Umenyiora called Pierre-Paul, and Pierre-Paul FaceTimed him back.
"This was maybe about a week and a half, two weeks ago," Umenyiora said at his retirement news conference on Wednesday. "He was in good spirits. He seemed like he was himself."
Pierre-Paul has stayed away from the Giants all offseason. Even before the fireworks accident, he skipped offseason workouts due to his frustration over the team's decision to franchise him instead of signing him to a long-term contract. Since the accident, he has refused to let the team examine him, choosing instead to work out and rehab on his own in Florida until he feels like he's close to being ready to return to the field.
But several members of the organization have been in touch with Pierre-Paul and are convinced he will return in time. Umenyiora is as well.
"Whenever he's ready, he's going to be back. There's no doubt about that," Umenyiora said. "This team needs him. I think he knows that. I think everybody knows that. You've got a truly dominant football player. I haven't seen one like him since [Michael] Strahan, honestly. So I think this team needs him and he needs this team. He has to come back, and I think he will come back and be strong."