Jason Pierre-Paul is only in a rush to get to the quarterback

After being traded from the Giants, the Bucs new defensive end skipped voluntary workouts but says he's finally settled in and ready to improve the NFL's worst pass rush.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul runs drills during mandatory mini-camp. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul runs drills during mandatory mini-camp. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published June 12, 2018|Updated June 13, 2018

TAMPA — Jason Pierre-Paul wasn't lost. Turns out, he knows his way to One Buc Place. More importantly, he doesn't need directions to the quarterback.

The former Giants defensive end had been a no-show for all 10 of the team's voluntary workouts. Then came the start of the mandatory mini-camp Tuesday.

"The offseason has been hectic, man," Pierre-Paul said just before his first practice with his new team. "A lot of moving around, getting situated, but I'm here now."

Hey, no rush.

And no rush is why Pierre-Paul is even in Tampa Bay in the first place. The Bucs were last in the NFL in sacks last season with 22. In 2011, his second year with the Giants, JPP had 16.5.

At 29, Pierre-Paul's career is closer to the end than the beginning. But this is a new beginning for him in Tampa Bay after spending all eight seasons with the G-men.

Although it made for a nice little bit of One Buc Palace intrigue, Pierre-Paul's absence from organized team activities was summed up pretty well by coach Dirk Koetter on Tuesday.

"No. 1, the guy has got experience," Koetter said. "And it's not like he's playing quarterback, okay? It's no big secret why he was brought here. He was brought here to rush the passer. He probably didn't forget how."

Koetter is right. There's only so many things an NFL defensive end is asked to do, especially one like Pierre-Paul, who played more than 1,000 defensive snaps for the Giants a year ago: rush the passer, play the run and occasionally drop into coverage on a zone blitz.

Pierre-Paul has to learn new terminology and the scheme of defensive coordinator Mike Smith. But the job description hasn't changed.

"I'm a pro, man. So I'm going to get it right," Pierre-Paul said. "I'm a pro. That's how I go about it. I'm already catching on to a lot of things. It's just different terminology, that's basically it.

"Even though I wasn't here, I was home studying and making sure I know the calls and the installs. Keep working out. Every I woke up at 6 a.m. and got out of there at 8 a.m. Stuff I've been doing. I've been keeping up. It was a situation I had to take care of and I took care of it and now I'm going to be here and go hard for three days."

While there is certainly value in learning new teammates and the defensive scheme, let's not pretend that, aside from conditioning, offseason workouts probably mean less to offensive and defensive linemen than any other positions on the football field.

Players wear no pads, just shorts, T-shirts and helmets. They can't have full contact. After each snap, the linemen engage in what can only be described as Lesson 1 at a ballroom dance studio. The only question is who leads.

That said, Pierre-Paul still looks and sounds the part. First of all, the former USF star is an enormous man. He is 6 feet 5 and listed at 275 pounds with long arms. And he is not just one-dimensional. Last season, Pierre-Paul didn't come off the field, playing in more than 1,000 defensive snaps for the Giants.

"We really don't want him to play that many," Koetter said. "He doesn't like to come off the field. If we can hold our depth, right now it looks like we're going to be pretty deep on the defensive line. Much deeper than we have been. If we can hold that, it helps everybody.

"But also think when you guys talked to Noah (Spence) last week, even Vinny Curry who is an experienced veteran, those guys like to learn from each other, and all that does when you add another guy to the group that they haven't been around before is add more experience to the group that they can share that with each other."

Pierre-Paul missed some sharing time, but that's about it. Look, there's a reason why a team like the Giants put a $250,000 workout bonus in the contract the Bucs acquired. It still wasn't enough money to get him to OTAs.

But the Bucs believe they know what they're getting in Pierre-Paul. They would settle for the 8.5 sacks he produced last season. Some may believe he hasn't been the same since a horrific hand injury sustained during a July 4 fireworks accident in 2015.

"That doesn't challenge me. My obstacle in life, I overcame," he said. "Everybody has their own obstacles. My obstacle was my injury. I overcame that so nobody can say anything to put me down. As I see myself, I'm only going up."

Of course, if Pierre-Paul doesn't have a good season, people will point to the practices he missed in May and June. But all that counts is what he does starting in September.

He plans to show up then, too.