Jason Pierre-Paul refuses to use club as excuse for his play

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jason Pierre-Paul primarily has stood on the sideline watching the past two weeks while his New York Giants teammates have practiced. His hand, the same one that was badly damaged in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in 2015, has been problematic.

Pierre-Paul has managed to play despite being listed on the injury report throughout the week with a “finger” injury. He has been doing so with a club on his affected right hand, the first time he has done so since he returned from the injury in the 2015 season.

Pierre-Paul has declined to get into specifics about what is bothering him with the hand. He also refuses to use it as an excuse.

“It doesn’t stop me from playing football,” he said after Sunday’s 34-29 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, during which he recorded three tackles and no sacks.

It has been a rough season for the Giants and Pierre-Paul after he signed a four-year, $62 million deal this offseason. He has 62 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits in 14 games.

While Pierre-Paul hasn’t always played at a dominant level, this could be the first time since 2014 that he has played in 16 games.

“He’s been banged up, and he’s still out there playing,” Giants defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. “That is just a credit to him. Obviously, he’s been to the mountain top and he sees what is like to being down low. I tip my hat to him because he’s still out there week in and week out trying, trying hard, even though we can see he’s hurting.”

Pierre-Paul has gone the past three games without a sack and with one quarterback hit. He’s Pro Football Focus’ 56th-ranked edge defender this season with a 74.6 grade, not exactly what the Giants expected from the $40 million guaranteed they invested in the 28-year-old defensive end.

The lack of production can’t completely be placed on his hand. Much of it came before the first sign of a new problem with the finger. Pierre-Paul had the hand heavily wrapped for the first time after a loss at the Oakland Raiders earlier this month.

Giants coach Steve Spagnuolo has conceded there is some concern about Pierre-Paul’s health entering Sunday’s contest at the Arizona Cardinals. He didn’t, however, know if it is a problem that will affect Pierre-Paul long term. It is something the Giants are trying to work around for the time being.

“We’ve tried to put him on certain sides to help that,” Spagnuolo said. “Now I will say this: He can stick that club in there and do some things with it and play football. So, that’s what we’re hoping. I don’t know whether he’ll choose to put the club on this week or not. I haven’t asked him that question.”

Regardless, Pierre-Paul isn’t using any of the injuries he has dealt with this season as an excuse. A shoulder and a knee also have given him troubles.

He never likes to use the hand as a reason for any struggles, either. That has been his approach ever since the accident, during which Pierre-Paul lost his right index finger and parts of several others.

His teammates haven’t heard any complaints, even throughout an up-and-down season in which his injury has once again become problematic.

“It’s not an excuse. One thing about JPP and that I always admire about him is that he never uses it as an excuse,” New York defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. “He never let it cripple him.

“I know his father is blind. His father is blind and was able to do things in life. He didn’t grow up with an opportunity to have excuses. So when his hand blew up, he took it in stride. He got everything he needed fixed, and now he’s back to the club. And that is not going to stop him from going out there and giving it his all every day. Good, bad or indifferent, I know he is out there giving it his all. Whether it is the right gap or the wrong gap, I know he’s trying his hardest. That is one thing he can always rest his hat on.”