Tuesday marks the start to the final week of the two-hand touch sessions, also known as organized team activities (OTAs), before the players scatter for their abbreviated summer breaks.
And of the players that most people wanted to hear and see from during this mandatory session was star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was nowhere to be seen or heard, as he jettisoned the idea of showing up without a contract.
Pierre-Paul, who was slapped with the franchise tag, has yet to sign his tender, meaning he’s still not too keen on the one-year fully-guaranteed $14.813 million offer, and also averse to putting his body in harm’s way without long-term security.
The Pro Bowler has until July 15 to sign his one-year tender if the two sides can’t negotiate a long-term deal. Head coach Tom Coughlin was near certainty during last week’s voluntary minicamp that Pierre-Paul would attend this week’s mandatory workout.
Apparently, the coach wasn’t as in-tuned as he thought.
Pierre-Paul’s positional coach, Robert Nunn, however, noted that while his prized pupil isn’t around the facilities, the coach pretty much knew Pierre-Paul wouldn’t attend this week. That being said, Nunn noted, he’s also not altogether unaware of Pierre-Paul’s whereabouts, as he confirmed that the two have talked at least “six or seven” times this offseason.
The coach reassured that Pierre-Paul is in fact working hard on his own near his home in Miami, and that it’s “not unusual” for an unsigned franchise player to do so. Nunn added that Pierre-Paul will need “to get in as soon as possible to catch up on a few wrinkles we put in … and if he’s to come back in the right frame of mind and in good shape, he’ll be ready to go.”
The overseer of the defense, coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, also said that Pierre-Paul needs to get in as soon as possible, just so he can finally begin putting Pierre-Paul in the right spots in the new-look defense. Without the star defender, it’s been a plug-and-play situation of guys who aren’t used to being the impetus to the pass rush.
“It’s good to get other guys more reps,” Spagnuolo said, highlighting the extra chances that guys like George Selvie, Kerry Wynn, Owa Odighizuwa and Damontre Moore will get. “From what I’ve seen on film, he [Pierre-Paul] still looks pretty elite to me … but not being here, he’s also going to be behind because there is a lot we are doing right now. Terminology is big in this league on both sides of the ball. Hopefully he is up to that challenge and we can get up to speed real quick.”
The 26-year-old Pierre-Paul isn’t under contract, and therefore he’s not required to attend the camp at all. So, without signing his tender, Spagnuolo knows it makes little sense for the player to take the risk of practicing, even if he signed an injury waiver.
Spagnuolo even brought up the 2007 training camp holdout of Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and likened it to Pierre-Paul’s situation. He noted that there are parallels, especially in the gap between the star defensive ends and their understudies. He joked that he hopes he doesn’t have to wait until early September to get a hold of Pierre-Paul, as he did with Strahan.
And like with the Strahan holdout, Spagnuolo will turn to the veterans who are at the minicamp to hold it together until his main star returns.
“When my friend Michael was out, we had vets step up the leadership. And now we’ll do the same to lean on guys like [linebackers] Jon Beason and Jameel McClain to step up that role,” said Spagnuolo, adding he can only worry about who is currently at the facilities. “I can’t wait to coach Jason, but when that player’s not out there right now, you have to move on and coach the guys that are here.”
As training camp is set to commence on July 30, the Giants can only hope such trepidation ends sooner, rather than later.
Big Blue notes:
-Pierre-Paul led the Giants with 12 1Ž2 sacks last season — including nine in the final five games, but the Giants are reportedly hesitant to give him a big-money, long-term deal because of his back ailment history. The franchise is leery because since his breakout 2011 campaign (16 1Ž2 sacks), he was plagued by back issues in the following two seasons, garnering just 8 1Ž2 sacks combined. He only had 3 1Ž2 sacks through his first 11 games, last season, which gives the team pause, as they think the nine he registered after that may be more anomaly than norm.
-Pierre-Paul has some market leverage, as this summer featured two players who aren’t as notable – and have less career sacks than he has (42) – earn big-money deals: Corey Liuget has just 18 career sacks in four years, but he was inked by the San Diego Chargers to a five-year/$56.7 million ($30.4 million guaranteed) deal, and the New Orleans Saints’ Cameron Jordan (29 sacks in four years), who was re-signed to a five-year/$60.0 million deal ($33.8 million guaranteed).
-The defensive line isn’t the only unit in flux, as defensive backs/secondary coach Dave Merritt hasn’t been too happy with his young safeties. Merritt said he had penciled in Nat Behre as the starter, but that’s up in the air now due to an injury. But, even before the malady, Merritt was growing impatient with his secondary – particularly with the dysfunction in getting the calls in from the secondary to the rest of the defense: “We have to think like vets. The communication and checks from the safeties to rest of defense has been very slow. … too many voices saying different things. We don’t need two cooks in the kitchen – just one safety needs to step up as the voice in secondary.”
-Spagnuolo agreed with Merritt’s assertion, adding leadership at safety has been “very slow in developing … It’s a challenge for our patience.”