Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul: 'I'll be better than I was'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The club Jason Pierre-Paul wore on his damaged right hand in the second half of last season is gone now, and the New York Giants' defensive end says he anticipates that, one season after losing his right index finger and parts of two other digits in a fireworks accident, he’ll be back to his old quarterback-sacking self in 2016.

"I am the player I used to be," Pierre-Paul said Tuesday at the first day of the Giants’ voluntary minicamp. "Just a couple injuries here and there, but I’m all right. I’ll be better than I was."

Pierre-Paul played in just eight games last season, registering one sack, after he suffered the injury just prior to training camp last summer. He played the season wearing a protective club on his hand, and he clearly struggled to match his form from the previous year, when he had 12.5 sacks in 2014.

This year, Pierre-Paul, 27, will play with a special glove, rather than the big club, on his hand, and he said he’ll be able to do all the things he couldn’t do last season.

"I knew I was going to need surgery after the season -- that’s the reason I played with the club," he said. "But now, I’m past that. I’m looking forward, and I’m hitting the bags normal, I’m grabbing normal -- I’m not even limited, so it’s a straight shot from here."

Pierre-Paul said he "dropped a couple pounds" in the offseason, though he declined to say just how much weight he lost. At Tuesday’s workout he was working on the left side, as opposed to his normal right side, but he said switching sides won’t make a difference in his technique, how he plays, or his expected production.

"Seven years in, I’ve played both sides," he said. "I’ll be on the right, I’ll be on the left. I’ve played both, so it’s really not a big problem."

He added that being in minicamp this year will help him. Last year, he declined to participate in the team’s offseason workouts because he was a free agent. This year he is under contract (albeit a one-year deal) and so he is happy to be in attendance for the voluntary minicamp.

"I missed the whole offseason last year," he said. "I was still working out, but it would have been better for me if I was here, getting to know the system and everything -- it’s very important. And I’m glad that I’m here this year."

In other Giants news:

A first for McAdoo: Head coach Ben McAdoo, who took over from Tom Coughlin, ran his first offseason workout as the team’s head coach, after serving as offensive coordinator the past two years. He admitted there was a little awkwardness at the start of the workout. After two years of running Eli Manning through quarterback drills, he had to figure out where to go.

"When practice started, I was looking for something to do," he said with a smile. "You have a chance to get around the defense a little bit more, and really, the positions other than the quarterback than I have in the past two years, so that’s exciting for me."

Donnell healed, happy: Tight end Larry Donnell, whose season ended prematurely and whose career was in some jeopardy because of a neck injury, said he is happy to be back on the field.

"I had all the faith in the world that I would be able to play again," said Donnell, who danced around the question of whether he had a broken bone in his neck. “It was just a matter of it healing up so I could get back out here."

Donnell said it wasn’t until February until his neck was healed sufficiently for him to get cleared and be able to get back to working out.

He said he never considered the fact that he might not play football again after his injury.

"Oh, no," he said. The worst part of [being injured] was sitting at home watching on the TV.’’

February was able to start doing the things that I needed to do.

He said when he gets back out in live contact situations, he won’t be thinking about the neck injury and how close his career came to being over.

"Oh, no, that’s why I’m out here today," he said. "It’s over with now. I made that decision to play football, and I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s what I love to do, so I’m ready to go."