Jason Pierre-Paul has played in a Super Bowl in his career. It was in February 2012, against Tom Brady, a victory for the Giants.
Pierre-Paul is one win away from another Super Bowl appearance. This time, Brady is his team’s quarterback.
The 32-year-old defensive end is in his third season with the Buccaneers after eight years with the Giants. He’s registered 9.5 sacks this year, bringing his three-year total at Tampa Bay to 30.5, and JPP also won his first two interceptions since 2013 this season. Maybe Pierre-Paul isn’t quite the player he was in his days in New York, but he’s still an impact passer on a solid defensive line where he teams up with Ndamukong Suh, Shaq Barrett and Vita Vea.
Even more noteworthy to some casual football fans, Pierre-Paul is now nearing the end of the sixth season he has played since injuring his right hand in a fireworks fire in 2015. After what could have been an accident that would have changed his career, JPP remains one of the most feared artists in football. After being named to the 2020 Pro Bowl, such continued success could also bring Pierre-Paul back to the Super Bowl.
What happened to Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand?
On July 4, 2015, Pierre-Paul gathered with his family and friends to celebrate Independence Day. He bought $ 1,100 worth of fireworks to get started, and all but one of the prizes went off without a hitch. The last fireworks did nothing the first seven times Pierre-Paul tried to launch them, he told Sports Illustrated in 2016.
On the eighth attempt, there was a flash and a boom. Pierre-Paul didn’t notice anything until someone screamed to look at his hand.
“I look at my [right] hand and I see every ligament, ” Pierre-Paul told SI. “You only see this stuff in the movies.”
Pierre-Paul was immediately taken to hospital because “blood has spilled everywhere”, according to SI. He doesn’t remember much of the hospital, but he remembered having said doctors, “Whatever you do, don’t cut my hand off.”
The initial emergency surgery performed on Pierre-Paul involved placing more than a dozen pins in his hand, as well as grafted skin from his forearm to his palm. A doctor told the mother of Pierre-Paul’s son that his career was probably over.
Pierre-Paul was transferred to a Miami hospital where fears that it was a career-ending injury have subsided. But he had to stay in the hospital for over two weeks, undergoing 10 surgeries and losing 30 pounds in the process.
As part of the proceedings, Pierre-Paul had his right index finger amputated. This is the most noticeable difference between his right hand and his left hand – one finger less.
“I could linger on it, like, Shit, I wish I had that finger,” Pierre-Paul told SI, “But when I look at myself in the mirror, I’m happy. Thank the Lord, it could have been worse.
Jason Pierre-Paul post-firework incident
Pierre-Paul did not return to the field for the Giants until Week 9 of 2015, and he struggled in his first eight games on the field, registering just one sack. But he bounced back the next two seasons, first with 7.0 sacks in 12 games in 2016, then with 8.5 sacks in 2017. That was a drop from his 12.5 sacks in 2014, but that was more like returning old Peter Paul.
The Giants signed Pierre-Paul for a four-year extension in the 2017 offseason, but they traded him to the Buccaneers in 2018 for the capital project. He had his best incident of the season after the fireworks display in 2018, at least when it came to sacks, registering 12.5. An off-season car crash limited Pierre-Paul to 10 games in 2019, but he played in all 16 games again in 2020.
A staple of Pierre-Paul’s game in recent years, even though he’s aged and suffers from other injuries, is not wanting to leave the field. He played at least 78% of the snaps in every Tampa Bay game in 2020, typically approaching 90% of the snaps played. Defensive linemen rarely stay so much on the pitch without being turned, but Pierre-Paul values his time in the game, perhaps more than most.
“The reality is, when is it time to take a rest when playing football? Especially when trying to win a game,” Pierre-Paul said in November. “Personally, I’m not going to go out unless I feel the need to go out. I think my coach and I are having a little trouble with that – he always tries to watch over me – but I prefer to stay because I know that in in the heat of the moment, anything can happen in seconds. “