‘I am a great pass rusher’

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on his ailing health the past two seasons, being doubted by everyone, and still believing in himself no matter what

Jason Pierre-Paul bearing down on Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI (Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated)
Jason Pierre-Paul bearing down on Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI (Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated)

Jason Pierre-Paul had a breakout 2011 season (16.5 sacks) when the Giants won the Super Bowl, but he’s struggled through two injury-plagued seasons since (8.5 sacks total), with back and shoulder problems. He is just 25, and the key to the Giants getting back on track to be a dominant defense.

The MMQB: In the last two years, have you ever felt totally healthy?

PIERRE-PAUL: You want me to be honest, so you can write your story right? Nope. Never did. Two years in a row, never totally healthy. You know why—because of the back issue. Then last year I messed up my shoulder, which, thank God, I didn’t have to have surgery on. I didn’t play last year at my best, to my best potential. But you can’t go out and worry about injuries when you play. You play. If they happen, they happen. But right now, I feel the way I felt [in 2011].

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The MMQB: You’ve gotten upset at some people calling you out for the last two years. You feel everybody is doubting you, don’t you?

PIERRE-PAUL: In this game called football, we don’t know who’s going to the playoffs. We don’t know the contenders now. In the NBA, you know. But that’s the fun of our game. You don’t know. People look at what we did, I did, three years ago, and that’s not really fair. Every year’s different. Things happen. I’m not even worried about [sack numbers]. I just want to go out there and play to my full potential, and play a healthy season, know what I’m saying? Last year, I’m, maybe, what, 50 percent? Maybe? I acted like a tough guy and said 85 percent. But I really wasn’t. Look at the film. That tough guy is out of the way now. I just want to whup the man in front of me, play after play. That’s what I want to do this year, and I think I can.

The MMQB: So you think, no question, you can be a great pass rusher this year?

PIERRE-PAUL: I am a great pass rusher. I’m not saying, ‘Do you think you can be?’ I know I am. I am. So, at the end of the day, it comes down to me showing it. If I do it, they start blocking me with two. Or three. Then you see Mathias Kiwanuka or Cullen Jenkins or Mike Patterson dominate, and that’s what makes a great pass rush. That’s what we need.

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