“Honestly, I had this game checked off since I left there, so emotions running big,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’m coming, man. I’m bringing the house down.”
Pierre-Paul returns to MetLife Stadium Sunday for the first time since he was traded with the team’s 2018 fourth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March. He was selected by the Giants with the 15th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of South Florida. His 58.5 sacks are seventh in franchise history.
Pierre-Paul was dealt to the Bucs for their 2018 third and fourth round picks. He was not pleased with the way he was informed about the trade: a phone call from general manager Dave Gettleman.
“That’s the way they went about it with a phone call, and that was it. Never heard from anyone else but Dave, and (quarterback) Eli (Manning) called me as well, but other than that, that was it,” Pierre-Paul said. “I won’t say hurt. Just the fact that the only thing I got was a phone call, you know what I’m saying? I didn’t speak to no owners or nothing. Obviously, I gave a hard eight years at the New York Giants and won a Super Bowl there, and the only thing I got was a phone call? I won’t say I was hurt, but it was just shocking.”
On the surface, the Bucs got the better of the deal. Pierre-Paul has eight sacks all by his lonesome while the Giants have 10 as a team. He will give Manning and the offense fits if the protection doesn’t hold up. There is also the added motivation of proving to the world the Giants made a huge mistake in sending him packing.
“I’m playing great ball, obviously,” Pierre-Paul said. “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. Obviously, New York felt like I couldn’t get the job done. I don’t know who makes those decisions, but that’s the decision they made and I got traded.”
The decision to trade Pierre-Paul was partially about the almighty dollar. The Giants were able to extricate themselves from the last three years of his four-year, $62 million deal. Although the Giants only saved $2.5 million under the cap this season, that number increases to $14.5 million in 2019 and $12.5 million in 2020. They already used some of that cash to lock in Odell Beckham Jr. long-term. They will also need money to re-sign Landon Collins and/or bring in younger free agents.
The picks the Giants received were used to select defensive tackle B.J. Hill (third round-No. 69 overall) and quarterback Kyle Lauletta (fourth round-No. 108 overall). Hill has started five of the Giants’ nine games with 28 combined tackles (20 solo), two sacks, and a pass defended. The jury is still out on Lauletta, who hasn’t seen action in the regular season.
Pierre-Paul is well aware the Giants offensive line has allowed 32 sacks this season.
“I wouldn’t say (I’m) licking my chops, but I know it’s a problem, you know what I mean?” he said. “But that’s not my problem. I’m on the Bucs and I’m doing a great job here and I’m loving it…the (Giants) team last year was struggling. And I can’t really say much, but the same situation last year I see is happening this year.”
The 2-7 Giants’ struggles are well documented. Tampa Bay has a marginally better record at 3-6. They fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith after allowing 34.6 points per game in their first five games. The Bucs were 2-3 in those contests. Interim Mark Duffer hasn’t done much better: the Bucs are 1-3 since he took over and surrendering 29.5 points per game.
Manning had nothing but praise for Pierre-Paul, in spite of his lack of awareness in the locker room nearly a year ago.
“JPP was a great teammate. You just thank him for being a great teammate, for being a great player,” Manning said. “The way he practiced, the way he competed, the way he came back right after his injury and fought, and did everything to come back, and be a part of the team, and play well. You hate to lose guys you win championships with and does everything the right way. That’s the NFL, but I just wanted to say I appreciated him as a person and as a player.”
Pierre-Paul, no matter what uniform he wears, will always be a Giant. He still feels that connection to the team. It makes no difference he now plays just 230 miles from his birthplace. It is why he felt ownership did him dirty with the way he was traded.
“I won a Super Bowl there,” Pierre-Paul said. “So, no matter what, that’s home for me.”