New York Giants star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul watched the first day of training camp practice from the sidelines as he continues to work his way back from offseason back surgery. With no official timetable for his return to the gridiron, Pierre-Paul admitted he is still not at 100 percent.
"I feel like I'm at 75 percent," Pierre-Paul told the New York media Saturday. "I've been doing everything [the training staff] has asked me to."
"The whole discomfort is gone. When I sit down I don't have that pain anymore. The surgery went well and that's a good thing. I'm doing pretty good."
Pierre-Paul experienced back pain dating back two seasons, and turned to treatment and cortisone injections to battled through the pain.
"It took me a while to figure it out," mentioned the defensive end. "For a defensive lineman, when you get in your stance that hurts. I just dealt with it. I came out here to minicamp and the pain started again."
Big Blue's No. 90 is rehabbing at the Giants Quest Diagnostics Performance Center, focusing on back and core work to speed up his recovery process. While he's making tremendous progress, full contact in practices is the major hurdle he is working toward.
"I can do rehab and I can do all that they can tell me, but I still have to get out there and get my butt to practice to see what I can do," Pierre-Paul noted. "Going against two guys and three guys in a double team is totally different than working by yourself. And that's what I have to be ready for."
For the time being, Big Blue's defensive unit will carry on without its dynamic pass-rushing end. With the opportunity to watch his teammates from a different perspective, Pierre-Paul provided a glowing assessment of that group.
"I think our defense can step up big time," stated Pierre-Paul. "Today is the first day of practice and I think the guys know even though I'm not going to be out there, I'll be watching them. I'm going to talk to a couple guys. I think they can go out there and start fast."
In the absence of Pierre-Paul, veteran Justin Tuck isn't shying away from the spotlight and has been instrumental in setting the tone for camp. With the Giants aiming to rebound from a playoff-less 2012 season, every player seems to know what's at stake.
"At this point I'm not on the field," Pierre-Paul said. "Justin has to be that guy right now. He has to hold everybody on the defensive line accountable for what got to do. It's going to be hard. Just has to be a leader. He's not only the leader, he's the captain. He's got to step up big time. This is a big year for Justin and he has to have a great season."
As Giants' fans anxiously await the return of their beloved defensive end, Pierre-Paul is taking a phased approach to a long recovery process.
"I don't have any concerns," said Pierre-Paul. "My plan is to get better, to come out here and be a big part of the team and try to get the playoffs. That's how it starts for a Super Bowl run."
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.com