EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Driving a car for more than 30 minutes, standing up straight for extended periods and getting into his football stance all had the same effect on New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul last season.
It hurt, and it hurt a lot.
The 2011 All Pro player disclosed on Saturday that he played last season in pain, and it didn’t go away until he had disk surgery on his back in June.
“A back is a really, really horrible thing to have, back surgery period and you don’t want to rush back,” Pierre-Paul said Saturday before the Giants held their first practice. “I’m not concentrating on the first game, the second game, the third game, fourth game, fifth game, sixth game. I’m just trying to come back when I feel like I’m ready to come back.”
While he feels better now, the catalyst of the Giants’ defense is not sure whether he will be ready for the season opener at Dallas on Sept. 8, although that is his goal.
The Giants have placed him on their active physically unable to perform list, leaving him to continue his rehabilitation.
“Honestly my plan is to get better, come out here and be a big part of the team and try to get to the playoffs because that’s where it starts to make a Super Bowl run,” he said. “And be a better player than I was last year.”
To be honest, Pierre-Paul had a sub-par 2012 season. After recording 16 ½ sacks in helping the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2011, he had 10 less last year as New York posted a 9-7 record and missed the postseason.
To his credit, Pierre-Paul never talked about his back or how much it hurt. He tried to reduce the pain level by strengthening his core during the season, and he admitted taking three shots during the year to numb the pain.
It didn’t work and it showed on the field. Pierre-Paul was not as dominant as he had been the previous year, although many suspected that was because opponents were paying more attention to him with double-and-triple team blocking.
“Like I said, I don’t know how much my back had to do with it or whatever,” said Pierre-Paul, who added the pain started two years ago and only got worse. “It was a constant pain when I got down in my stance. When we played a 4-3, I always have to be down, and the push off that was there, and the pain takes away a big part of it.”
Pierre-Paul said he disclosed the pain with the trainers and talked to the team doctors about it, but they recommended that he continue his core training. The pain seemed to disappear after the season ended, but it returned during minicamp. That’s when the disk problem was discovered and the surgery was performed.
The disk problem had also caused him to lose strength in his right leg, tests showed according to Pierre-Paul.
After less than two months of rehabilitation, Pierre-Paul feels he’s at 75 percent.
“The whole discomfort is gone,” said the first-round pick who is entering his fourth season. “When I sit down I don’t have that pain any more. When I am standing up I don’t have that pain. I can stand up straight. Basically everything is gone. That’s a good thing. I am doing pretty good.”
Pierre-Paul believes he can regain the explosiveness that made him one of the NFL’s most-feared defenders.
“It’s all on me. How I rehab,” he said. “I am trying to get my core right, stronger, my back stronger. It’s all on me. You don’t want to go out there too early. You don’t want to go out there too late. You want to be just enough so you can play the game.”