Jason Pierre-Paul, preparing for his first season with the Bucs, had a graphic reminder for his fans on Tuesday night of how important it is to be careful with fireworks while celebrating the 4th of July tonight.
The Pro Bowl defensive end from USF posted a photo to Instagram showing the significant damage his right hand (you can see it here, though we warn that it is graphic) sustained when fireworks went off in his hand on July 4 three years ago.
"It's been 3 yrs since my accident and I can truly say I'm very blessed and fortunate to be where I am in life," Pierre-Paul wrote. "Looking at these pictures seems unreal and crazy. How your life can change in the blink of an eye."
Pierre-Paul has been able to return to playing at a high level despite the injury to his hand — he detailed the accident to Sports Illustrated in 2016. After missing much of the 2015 season recovering from his injury, he had seven sacks in 2016; last year, he had 8.5 sacks, with 68 tackles in more than 1,000 defensive snaps.
"One of the greatest American traditions in celebrating 4th of July is with fireworks," he wrote Tuesday night. "Unfortunately, tomorrow someone will be injured playing with fireworks. We are celebrating the birthday of our great nation. I'm glad to still be alive to show you the outcome of what happened to me. Please don't feel sorry for me, trust me your boy fine even with missing fingers lol. Be safe out there otherwise, this can be you."
Pierre-Paul has made fireworks safety a priority since his accident. Here's a public service announcement video he made two years ago, also showing the damage to his hand as a reminder for fans to be careful.
The Bucs are hoping Pierre-Paul is part of a major upgrade on the defensive line, as they sent the Giants a third-round pick to acquire him and will pay him $12.5 million this season. Tampa Bay also used its first-round pick on DT Vita Vea and signed DE Vinny Curry, DT Beau Allen and DT Mitch Unrein in free agency, adding a new defensive line coach in Brentson Buckner as well.