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Bucs' Jason Pierre-Paul attempts another comeback

Tampa Bay Times logo Tampa Bay Times 10/22/2019 By Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times
a man wearing a hat and glasses: Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul  watches warm ups before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium on August 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times © (90)/TNS/Tampa Bay Times/TNS Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul watches warm ups before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium on August 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times

TAMPAJason Pierre-Paul has something to say to anyone who doubted he could come back from a cervical fracture in his neck to play in the NFL again.

"Not a lot of people come back from blowing off their hand, too,'' said Pierre-Paul, who lost several fingers in a July 4 fireworks accident in 2015.

The Bucs Pro Bowl pass rusher, who had 12.5 sacks last season, returned to football activities for the first time during the team’s bye week with some practice squad players. On Tuesday, he participated in practice with the full squad and the Bucs haven’t ruled out him playing Sunday at Tennessee.

Pierre-Paul had not played football since suffering a cervical fracture in his neck when his Ferrari lost control on a wet road and struck a concrete wall on I-95 near Hollywood, Fla., on May 2.

Because of the nature of the injury, it was unknown whether he would need season-ending — and perhaps career-threateningsurgery to fully recover.

"I had no doubts,'' Pierre-Paul said. "That’s it.''

The Bucs are 2-4 entering Sunday’s game at Tennessee. Linebacker Shaq Barrett still is tied for the NFL lead with nine sacks but hasn’t had any in the past two games as teams have adjusted their blocking schemes to stop him. Adding a player like Pierre-Paul would be a big boost to the Bucs defense, which is first in the NFL against the run but last against the pass (305 yards per game).

"He looked good, he looks fine, he’s healthy,'' coach Bruce Arians said. "He had a heck of a practice today...he’s a little rusty, but he was good.

"He’s come back from some serious stuff and he’s kind of a freak of nature as far as healing. He has a great belief in his faith and I think sometimes that helps heal him.''

Pierre-Paul said it felt good to be back with teammates practicing.

"All I can say is everything is good right now,'' Pierre-Paul said. "I’m on the right track, completely forward, and I got a lot to do in a short amount of time. That’s all I can say.''

The other thing Pierre-Paul can bring is leadership to a young defense.

"It’s a huge, huge thing,'' Arians said. "Because he has been one of the vocal leaders for a long time and not having his presence, I can already feel the difference. Obviously, he’s feeling his way football-wise but the rest of it, last week going out to practice, coaching, doing those types of things, giving young guys advice, it’s fantastic.''

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