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Buccaneers OLB Jason Pierre-Paul returns to practice

The veteran suffered a neck fracture in an offseason car accident, but he is on his way back to being game-ready.

NFL: DEC 30 Falcons at Buccaneers Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the NFL trade deadline one week away, the Buccaneers are on their way to getting a big upgrade without having to make a trade at all.

Coming off the bye week, Tampa Bay had outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul rejoin the team at Tuesday’s practice. The Bucs’ 2018 sack leader suffered a neck fracture in a car accident this offseason, but looks ready to make his comeback sooner rather than later.

The return of Pierre-Paul is obviously a big deal for the Buccaneer defense, as the unit could use as much help as it can get. Early on this season, the pass rush has been sporadic outside of Shaquil Barrett and the pocket-collapsing pressure from Vita Vea up the middle. And the secondary hasn’t held up all that well whether the front seven has been getting pressure or not. So, Pierre-Paul getting in the mix can only help this group.

After Tuesday’s practice, head coach Bruce Arians and Pierre-Paul himself spoke with the media.

Bruce Arians:

(On what he saw from OLB Jason Pierre-Paul in practice)

”He looked good, he looks fine, he’s healthy – he had a heck of a practice today.”

(On how much Pierre-Paul was able to do in practice)


(On if Pierre-Paul was able to take part in contact drills)

”Yeah, he had contact last week with pads on.”

(On if he was able to watch Pierre-Paul practice last week)

”Yeah, I was out there. It was good – he was a little rusty, but it was good.”

(On if he’s ever dealt with a player returning from a neck fracture)

”No, I have not.”

(On what it says about Pierre-Paul to be able to return from this injury)

”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 you.”

(On what Pierre-Paul’s return does for the team’s leadership)

“That’s a huge thing 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 all those things, giving young guys advice – it’s fantastic.”

(On when he expects Pierre-Paul to be ready to play in a game)

“We’ll see.”

(On how he balances making sure OLB Jason Pierre-Paul fully recovers from his injury when he wants to play)

”It’s how he feels, how he’ll feel tomorrow after this practice. A lot will depend on how he feels Thursday after Wednesday practice in pads, and we’ll just judge it from there.”

Jason Pierre-Paul:

(On what it means to be back at practice)

“To be honest, it felt great. It’s been a long journey, but I still got a lot going on – but it’s been great working with my teammates.”

(On how he is feeling)

“I feel good – superb.”

(On when he expects to play)

“I have no expectations. The moment they release me to go out there, I’ll be out there. Right now, I’m good, I’m back practicing, so we’ll see.”

(On the lack of precedent in returning from a neck injury)

“Not a lot of people come back from blowing up their hand, too. I had no doubts.”

(On how it felt when he was cleared to return to practice)

“It felt good. Everything is good right now. I’m on the right track, I’m keeping forward and I’ve got a lot to do in a short amount of time. That’s all I can say.”

(On what it was like to have a second child while he was rehabbing)

“I’m just glad I can have kids. I know how hard my Mom and father worked to get me where I need to get today, and just to have kids and to see my daughter born – that’s a blessing.”

(On playing with OLB Shaquil Barrett)

“He’s a good player. I can’t wait to get out there with him. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, and I’m looking forward to it.”

(On how eager he is to put on pads on Wednesday)

“[I’ve been eager] since 10 months ago.”

*Transcripts courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department