1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Bucs’ Jason Pierre-Paul wants to prove he’s unstoppable, again

Once sidelined by a fireworks accident, the Pro Bowl pass rusher now looks to bounce back from a May car accident
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) watches warm ups before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium on August 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 22
Updated Oct. 22

TAMPA ― Jason Pierre-Paul was reminded Tuesday that not a lot of football players come back from a broken neck to play in the NFL.

“Not a lot of people come back from blowing off their hand, too,'' said Pierre-Paul, who lost several fingers in a July 4 fireworks accident in 2015. “I had no doubts.’’

Why should he?

Pierre-Paul’s latest comeback story began the night of May 2 when an emergency room doctor told him he has a cervical fracture in his neck.

One minute, Pierre-Paul was driving his Ferrari down a wet road on I-95 nearly Hollywood, Fla. The next, he struck a concrete barrier that sent his career spinning out of control.

For more than two months he was in a neck brace. For more than five months, he wasn’t cleared to put on a helmet.

When football players learn they have a broken neck, the next question they usually have to answer is, “How would you like to handle your retirement announcement?”

Fortunately, there was no spinal cord damage, no hint of paralysis. But there was also no guarantee the injury would heal by itself.

The plan was to give Pierre-Paul about three months and re-evaluate. If there wasn’t enough progress, he would require surgery that would end his season and perhaps his career.

"I had no doubts,'' Pierre-Paul said. “That’s it.''

When will we learn?

When the Bucs traded with the Giants for Pierre-Paul, he spoke about the fireworks accident that caused the amputation of his right index finger and the tip of his right thumb while severely damaging his middle finger.

At his introductory news conference, Pierre-Paul was asked what he had learned about himself from the accident.

”That I’m unstoppable,’’ Pierre-Paul said.

Last season, Pierre-Paul led the Bucs with 12.5 sacks despite playing in a historically awful defense that allowed 29 points per game.

He was looking forward to playing in a new defensive scheme under Todd Bowles and then, bam!

The Bucs were optimistic of his return, but they also wanted to protect their assets. They weren’t going to rush Pierre-Paul back given the nature and location of the injury.

They voided the final year of Pierre-Paul’s contract and signed him to a one-year, $3-million deal that included $7.5-million in playing incentives.

For every game he is active, he receives $200,000. For every game he plays 50 percent of the defensive snaps, he earns another $200,000. Eight sacks are worth another $500,000. Ten sacks are $1-million extra.

But this has never been about the money. Pierre-Paul has already earned close to $70-million in his career.

Pierre-Paul, who turns 31 on New Year’s Day, believes he’s unstoppable. He wants to prove it one more time.

He was cleared to return to football activities for the first time during the team’s bye week with some practice squad players. On Tuesday, Pierre-Paul participated in practice with the full squad and the Bucs haven’t ruled him out for Sunday’s game at Tennessee.

"He looked good, he looks fine, he’s healthy,'' coach Bruce Arians said. "He had a heck of a practice today...he’s a little rusty, but he was good.

"He’s come back from some serious stuff and he’s kind of a freak of nature as far as healing. He has a great belief in his faith and I think sometimes that helps heal him.''

The Bucs are 2-4 entering Sunday’s game at Tennessee. Linebacker Shaq Barrett still is tied for the NFL lead with nine sacks but hasn’t had any in the past two games as teams have adjusted their blocking schemes to stop him. Adding a player like Pierre-Paul would be a big boost to the Bucs defense, which is first in the NFL against the run (68 yards) but last against the pass (305 yards per game).

“He’s a good player,’’ Pierre-Paul said of Barrett. “I can’t wait to get out there with him.''

Pierre-Paul said it felt good to be back with teammates practicing.

"All I can say is everything is good right now,'' Pierre-Paul said. “I’m on the right track, completely forward, and I got a lot to do in a short amount of time. That’s all I can say.''

The other thing Pierre-Paul can bring is leadership to a predominately young defense.

"It’s a huge, huge thing,'' Arians said. “Because he has been one of the vocal leaders for a long time and not having his presence, I can already feel the difference. Obviously, he’s feeling his way football-wise but the rest of it, last week going out to practice, coaching, doing those types of things, giving young guys advice.

“It’s fantastic.''

No doubt.


  1. Feelings about Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem three years ago are still running strong. Protesters showed up for a planned workout at the Falcons facility on Saturday. After disagreements with the NFL, the workout was later rescheduled by Kaepernick at a different locaction. TODD KIRKLAND  |  AP
    John Romano: A suggestion that the Bucs should be interested in Kaepernick if he was still an NFL caliber quarterback was met with strong pushback by readers.
  2. Atlanta Falcons offensive cooridnator Dirk Koetter watchs teams warm up before the first half of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP
    Two former head coaches, a Super Bowl-winning GM and red-hot defense await in Atlanta.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards (34) celebrate a tackle during the second quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 17, 2019, in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Bruce Arians said he’s still trying to figure out why weekday preparation isn’t translating to Sundays following a 34-17 loss to New Olre
  4. As Jameis Winston showed late in Sunday's loss to the Saints, he's not ready to give up on the 2019 season. MARK LOMOGLIO  |  Associated Press
    Though the 2019 season hasn’t gone as planned for Tampa Bay, the next six weeks are an opportunity for the team to show us what’s ahead.
  5. Atlanta Falcons offensive cooridnator Dirk Koetter watchs teams warm up before the first half of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP
    Koetter went 19-29 until his dismissal following the 2018 season
  6. Jameis Winston (3) is expected to start Sunday at Atlanta despite the ankle injury he suffered late in the Bucs' 34-17 loss Sunday to New Orleans. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Bucs quarterback, who sprained his left ankle Sunday, should play against the Falcons.
  7. Long faces dominate some of the remaining Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans during the fourth quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 17, 2019, in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What remaining game will Tampa Bay be favored to win?
  8. The interception return for a touchdown by New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams was the eighth pick-six of Jameis Winston's career. That moves him past Vinny Testaverde for second place on the all-time Bucs list behind Trent Dilfer's 10. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Romano’s Gimme Five | Now that the illusion of a happy 2019 is all but buried, it’s time to begin looking at where the Bucs go from here.
  9. Eagles' Zach Ertz, right, tries to slip past the Patriots' Danny Shelton during Sunday's game. MICHAEL PEREZ  |  AP
    Plus, Ravens rolling, AFC South tightens and Cowboys surge -- on the road to Miami Gardens.
  10. Even if Bucs players and coaches don't know it, the fans do. They've seen this movie too many times before. Since 2013, the Bucs have averaged 3.3 wins at the 10-game point of the season. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Romano | It’s not just the 3-7 record, it’s the helter-skelter way Tampa Bay plays that makes this a good time to start planning for the holidays and the NFL draft.