As refined as each team’s playbook may be, the irony is that perhaps the biggest wild card will be a dominant player who’s yet to truly tap into his budding talents.
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is a second-year phenom who has terrorized quarterbacks all season long and is looking forward to adding one more big-game prize to his mantel, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The pass rusher said he figures to have quite the competition amongst his teammates in bagging the future Hall of Famer.
“We compete amongst each other and if Justin [Tuck] gets a sack, I want two. If I want two, then Osi [Umenyiora] wants three,” Pierre-Paul said. “Basically, you can say that we are greedy but in a good way [because] it helps our team out. We try to get there quick enough to help our secondary cover better and try to get to the quarterback as fast as we can.”
If not for Umenyiora, Pierre-Paul would probably be known as the quickest defensive lineman off the snap, as he possesses speed and agility that’s unmatched in the league. Pierre-Paul, who took over the starting slot ahead of his mentor as the elder vet battled numerous injuries all season, said despite being the official starter he holds Umenyiora in such high regards.
The phenom allowed that it’s Umenyiora who has been his biggest teacher and supporter.
But while he said Umenyiora has taught him a lot, Pierre-Paul said there’s one thing the veteran can’t teach because it’s become a move synonymous with Umenyiora.
“I leave that to Osi, that is Osi’s thing,” Pierre-Paul said when asked if he’s tried to borrow Umenyiora’s patented strip-sack move. “He is very good at it and we just try to get after the quarterback and have fun. That is the most important thing. Have fun on the field while you are trying to get after the passer. It’s just a great group of guys having fun out there.”
Having fun is perhaps the best advice Pierre-Paul said Tuck has been telling his teammates. Regardless of all the hoopla, Tuck said he just wants Pierre-Paul — and the rest of the Super Bowl neophytes — to try to make this game as normal as possible.
“The only thing that I tell the younger guys is to make football, football,” said Tuck. “Don’t make this game bigger than it has to be. Everybody around you is going to make it bigger, but we have to concentrate on why we’re going out there.”
Tuck said he thinks Pierre-Paul and the rest will heed his advice because he’s a leader by example and has already been through the wild week that leads up to the big game.
“Listen, if you go out there and you handle your business and you win this game, you can party all you want to after that,” Tuck said when asked what he told the younger guys specifically Pierre-Paul. “For me personally, the first time I went to a Super Bowl [XLII] I approached it as a once in a lifetime thing. I’m blessed to have an opportunity to go to a second and hopefully will get the opportunity to go to more. You just have to approach it that way because you never know.”
Pierre-Paul said he’ll definitely heed Tuck’s cautionary words, but added he’ll be enjoying every moment of this experience.
“We clown around and stuff, especially in the D-line room,” Pierre-Paul said, adding the closer it gets to kickoff the more serious the mood will get. “Yes, we clown around but when it is time to work, we work. That is a good thing, we know when to shut it off and turn it on. They’re a great football team, a great offensive line, [but] when it’s time, we are just going to get after them.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 all week from Indianapolis.