Buccaneers activate Jason Pierre-Paul after recovery from broken neck

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NASHVILLE -- Star pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who hasn't played since suffering a broken neck in an auto accident this offseason, has been activated from the reserve/non-football Injury list, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Saturday.

Pierre-Paul suffered the injury when his Ferrari spun out of control on a South Florida freeway and hit a median May 2. Police determined that rain was a factor.

After participating in one-on-one drills with offensive linemen last week, he joined teammates for his first squad practice Tuesday and then practiced in pads Wednesday.

"It felt great. It's been a long journey," Pierre-Paul said Tuesday. "I've still got a lot going on, but it's been great being with my teammates. ... I feel good."

Coach Bruce Arians added, ""He's kind of a freak of nature as far as healing." Pierre-Paul opted to forgo surgery this summer, which would have likely prevented him from playing this season, and instead chose to rehabilitate his neck in hopes that he could rejoin his team near the halfway mark.

When asked Tuesday if he ever doubted he'd return to football, considering not many do after suffering broken necks, he responded, "Not a lot of people have come back from blowing off a hand too, said Pierre-Paul, referring to a July 4 fireworks accident in 2015 that mangled his hand so much, it required the amputation of his right index finger. "But I had no doubts."

Pierre-Paul also restructured his contract, eliminating the final 2020 year of his deal and reducing his 2019 salary from $13.65 million to $10.75 million. He'll receive a $200,000 roster bonus for every game he is on the 46-man roster.

The Buccaneers play at the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

On Friday, prior to Pierre-Paul receiving medical clearance, Arians said the plan would be to get Pierre-Paul involved in the game gradually. He missed all offseason and training camp.

"He won't get 90 snaps or anything like that," said Arians, who praised his conditioning.

Pierre-Paul, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has 71 career sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions during his 10 NFL seasons. Last season, he recorded 12.5 sacks, becoming the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in 2005 to record double-digit sacks.