TAMPA — The Bucs will be without their sack leader at least until the middle of October, and more likely November, if he plays at all.
Jason Pierre-Paul, who suffered a neck fracture in a one-car accident in May, will miss at least the first six weeks of the season.
Though Pierre-Paul has shown slight progress in recovering, the Bucs placed him on the reserve non-football injury list Friday. That means Pierre-Paul, who led them in sacks with 121/2 last season, won’t be eligible to play or practice until after Week 6.
At that point, the Bucs would have up to 21 days for Pierre-Paul to be activated or he would be out for the season.
Pierre-Paul could be cleared to play immediately in the final 10 games if he appears healthy, but he likely would require time for conditioning.
Pierre-Paul, 30, was involved in a one-car accident May 2 when his Ferrari struck a wall on Interstate 95 near the Fort Lauderdale airport. He suffered a fracture in his neck and had been in a brace until a few weeks ago.
Pierre-Paul hasn’t begun lifting weights or doing conditioning drills. The Bucs want to be overly cautious about his injury because it involves the neck and he plays a position that absorbs a lot of violent collisions.
Without Pierre-Paul, who was going to move to outside linebacker in coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defense, the Bucs will have to rely on Carl Nassib, Noah Spence, Shaq Barrett and rookie Anthony Nelson to provide an outside pass rush.
Because Pierre-Paul’s injury is not football related, the Bucs will get salary-cap savings. Pierre-Paul is scheduled to earn a base salary of $13.65 million in 2019.
Pierre-Paul is no stranger to overcoming injury. He lost his right index finger and another finger on that hand in a July 4 fireworks accident in 2015, then played that season with the Giants.
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLStroud.