Buccaneers’ Jason Pierre-Paul overcame a double dose of adversity

Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (90) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first quarter of their NFC Championship game

Most people remember Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks incident from the Fourth of July in 2015 and the pictures that circulated around social media with his right hand badly burnt and mangled.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians recalls the serious car accident from May of 2019 in which Pierre-Paul’s Ferrari slid on a wet surface and smacked into a concrete well and left him with a fractured neck.

Either of those injuries could have been career-ending, but the 32-year-old Pierre-Paul made it through both doses of adversity and is one of the top defensive players on a Tampa Bay squad that will battle the powerful Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“It’s amazing,” Arians said during his media availability on Tuesday. “He’s a medical, genetic freak, the way he can bounce back from severe injury. That car wreck, I was just hoping he was going to be able to walk. Football was the furthest thing from my mind.

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“He told me, ‘I’ll be back.’ He is a rolling ball of energy every single day. He’s the best guy at playing injured and being tough that I know.”

Pierre-Paul, in his 11th NFL season, racked up 9.5 sacks this season to earn his third career Pro Bowl selection — and his first since 2012 with the New York Giants. He also recorded a career-high four forced fumbles and had two interceptions after having a total of two through his first 10 seasons.

He also was one of the stars of the NFC Championship Game as he recorded two sacks of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in the Buccaneers’ 31-26 victory over the Packers.

Pierre-Paul has 30.5 sacks in three seasons with Tampa Bay — he has 89 overall — after it appeared his career was in decline.

The big-time force who posted a career-best 16.5 sacks with the Giants in 2011 had just a total of 16.5 over 36 games in his last three campaigns (2015-17) with New York.

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That swoon was after the gory fireworks accident in which the player known as JPP lost his index finger and parts of two others.

But this season, Pierre-Paul didn’t miss a single game. He also is fresh and vibrant during Super Bowl week.

“Resiliency means no matter how hard it seems, just don’t quit,” Pierre-Paul said. “It’s easier said than done. I never quit at anything in life I did. I’m going to give it everything I got, until I can’t.”

Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David was a junior-college teammate with Pierre-Paul at Fort Scott Community College (Kan.) in 2008.

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Ten years later, they were teammates again when the Buccaneers acquired Pierre-Paul from the Giants. What David noticed quickly was that Pierre-Paul was still as dependable as ever.

“I think JPP has been the same guy since I met him — energetic guy, happy-go-lucky guy, a free-spirited guy,” David said. “JPP used to do my haircuts in school, in junior college. JPP is a jack of all trades. He’s somebody you count on, somebody you can trust. He’s definitely somebody who I can trust to come out, be somebody, be a friend on and off the field. You can expect him to be where he’s supposed to be and doing what he’s supposed to do.”

Pierre-Paul already owns one Super Bowl ring. He earned that one in the 2011 season when the Giants defeated the New England Patriots and now-Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.

Now he is teamed with Brady while trying to earn one for the Bucs. He also is accidentally creating waves due to not knowing the identities of Kansas City offensive linemen.

Pierre-Paul heard Chiefs standout left tackle Eric Fisher would miss the Super Bowl with an Achilles injury, but he was unaware of who Mike Remmers was when informed Remmers would move from guard and have the assignment of blocking him.

Remmers is in his ninth NFL season and has started 88 of 92 games played.

“I didn’t even know who that was,” Pierre-Paul said. “Man, I’m not going to lie to you. Is this a tackle that you’re talking about? Like I said, I don’t care too much about it. They got to figure that out.”

–Field Level Media