TAMPA — Even if Jason Pierre-Paul doesn’t require surgery for a cervical fracture he suffered in a one-car accident May 2, the Bucs don’t expect him to be ready to play until sometime in October, coach Bruce Arians said.
"I would think so, just to be safe and not rush it,'' Arians told the Times. "And knowing him, he’s one of those fast healers, so. I hate to put a time limit on it, but the earlier the better. As long as he’s healthy.''
Paul lost control of his Ferrari in wet conditions on I-95, striking a concrete barrier near Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at around 2 a.m. last month.
He was transported to a Broward hospital. The Bucs had Pierre-Paul consult with specialists and it was decided that he would be re-evaluated 11 weeks after the accident, or sometime in late July, just before training camp. If the fracture is healed on its own, Pierre-Paul can begin the slow process of preparing for the season.
If the injury requires surgery, he would be placed on the reserve non-football injury list (NFI) and out for the season. Arians said recently that he expected Pierre-Paul to miss up to six months following the accident.
Of course, Pierre-Paul has defied medical predictions before. He lost a finger and part of a second one in a fireworks accident on July 4, 2015 but still played in eight games that season.
Last year, Pierre-Paul had a team-best 12.5 sacks last season, his first with the Bucs after playing eight years for the New York Giants. It was the second-most he had in his career only to the 16.5 he recorded in 2011.
Pierre-Paul has a base salary of $13.65 this season and a $1-million roster bonus. A guarantee of $7.5-million went into effect in March, but the Bucs could be eligible to recoup that if he remains on the NFI list.
The Bucs don’t have many established pass rushers and are switching to a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Carl Nassib, who had a career-high 6.5 sacks after being claimed off waivers from the Browns last season, will start at one outside linebacker spot. The Bucs signed Broncos free agent Shaq Barrett, used a fourth-round pick on Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson and have third-year edge rusher Noah Spence returning.
Arians believes Pierre-Paul will be the only Bucs player not cleared for training camp. Safety Justin Evans has been battling a toe injury that landed him on injured reserve last season and recently had a procedure to fix a heel problem on his other foot and is in a walking boot.
"I think we’re fine,'' Arians said. "I think Justin Evans is a big question. I think everybody on the offensive line should be ready to go. Evan (Smith) went through the walk-through (Wednesday). He did some individual (drills). (Cameron) Brate (hip) should be fine. Mike (Evans) could probably go right now, we just don’t want him to.''