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Bucs’ Jason Pierre-Paul will miss at least six weeks with neck injury

Tampa Bay’s sack leader begins the year on the reserve non-football injury list.
Jason Pierre-Paul (90) lost fingers in a 2015 fireworks accident and returned to play that season. But the neck injury that he suffered in a May car accident has cast his 2019 season with the Bucs into doubt.
Jason Pierre-Paul (90) lost fingers in a 2015 fireworks accident and returned to play that season. But the neck injury that he suffered in a May car accident has cast his 2019 season with the Bucs into doubt. [ MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Aug. 30, 2019
Updated Aug. 31, 2019

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.

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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.

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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 rstroud@tampabay.com. Follow @NFLStroud.