FAB 3. Don’t Worry About Pierre-Paul Missing OTAs
During Tampa Bay’s 10 OTA practices over the last five weeks, Bucs fans fretted and the media wondered – where in the world is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul?
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Brent Grimes missed a few voluntary practices, but Pierre-Paul, who will play a key role in rushing the passer this season, was nowhere to be found. Would JPP miss mandatory mini-camp, too?
The answer, of course, was no. Pierre-Paul put the minds of Pewter Nation at ease by showing up and working out with the team last Tuesday through Thursday, stepping right in with the starters as a veteran entering his ninth season and looking like he didn’t miss a beat.
So where was he and why didn’t he attend?
“The offseason’s been hectic, man, a lot of moving around and getting situated, but I’m here now,” Pierre-Paul said. “A lot of moving around, bringing my stuff from Jersey, making sure my son’s situated – that’s basically it.
“I’m a pro, man, so I’m going to get it right. That’s nothing. I’m a pro, that’s how I go about it and I’m already catching on to a lot of things. It’s just different terminology. That’s basically it.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter would prefer to have 100 percent attendance during the voluntary OTAs, but wasn’t fazed by Pierre-Paul’s absence.
“When JPP first told me he wasn’t going to be at the first part of OTAs, he said, ‘Coach, I’ve been doing this a long time, there’s only so many things a defensive end has to do,’” Koetter said. “I think he’s done a good job. You can tell – we all know who he is from afar but when he gets here, he’s a big man and he’s long, 280 pounds. He plays the run a lot better than people think he does so, he’s going to be fine.”
Yes, the Bucs have a new defensive line coach in Brentson Bucker and are playing a different scheme up front this season. And yes, there are a lot of new defensive linemen to get acclimated to in Tampa Bay this year – and JPP hasn’t played with any of them before.
So was there anything to worry about when it came to missing 10 voluntary practices? I turned to former Bucs defensive tackle and new ESPN Monday Night Football sideline reporter Booger McFarland for the answer.
“The biggest part is just the camaraderie and the continuity,” McFarland said. “As a defensive lineman, there is not much you can do in shorts. As long as he shows up in shape, ready to go – football-wise he’ll be fine. One of the things you learn during the OTAs or spring football is the terminology – the little nuances of the defenses and things of that nature. As long as he’s up to speed on what the defenses are in his position and how the defense functions he’ll be okay. It’s really a lot of classroom stuff. Defensive linemen play with a mouthpiece in and shoulder pads on. There was really not a lot that he was going to gain other than classroom work and camaraderie.”
According to Pierre-Paul, he has been studying the playbook and getting the terminology down. Being able to hear the terminology and line up with his teammates during the three-day mini-camp only helped him.
“Can you make up? Of course,” Pierre-Paul said. “Like I said, I’m a pro. Even though I wasn’t here I was at home studying and making sure I know the calls, the installs. That’s just something you do. You keep [doing] your work, keep working out – every day I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and went to the gym, got out of there at 8:00 a.m. Just stuff I’ve been doing, I’ve been keeping up, so it’s not – like I said, it was a situation that I had to take care of. I took care of it and now I’m here. … We’ve got training camp. Training camp is going to be here and I will be here. So you’ll get a chance to see me then.”
Even though it was only three days, Koetter saw enough of Pierre-Paul to be excited about what he can do to help Tampa Bay’s defense.
“It’s shorts football,” Koetter said. “We’ve all seen plenty of tape on Jason Pierre-Paul and nothing is going to happen in a day of practicing in shorts and helmets that’s going to change any of that.
“He played a ton of plays last year. We really don’t want him to play that many but he doesn’t like to come off the field. If we can hold our depth, right now it looks like we’re going to be pretty deep on the defensive line, much deeper than we have been. If we can hold that depth, that helps everybody. When you guys talked to Noah [Spence] last week, even Vinny Curry who’s an experienced veteran, those guys like to learn from each other. All that does, when you add another guy to the group that they haven’t been around before, is add more experience. They can share that with each other. They’ve been doing a good job of that.”
From a conditioning standpoint, Pierre-Paul, who grew up in South Florida and played one year at the University of South Florida in Tampa, looks ready to go.
“You see me sweating,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’m ready to go in the AC. The Florida weather is pretty nice, especially when I get in my car.”
After playing one year at Raymond-James Stadium, as well as last year’s Bucs vs. Giants game, Pierre-Paul is excited to be back in his home state and a chance to be closer to his family.
“It means a lot, you know,” Pierre-Paul said. “It means a lot. It’s been nine years. I know everybody’s excited – I’m excited, my family’s excited [that I’m] closer to home. So I’m really pumped. I think this is going to be one of my best years.”
Pierre-Paul did forfeit a $250,000 workout bonus by missing OTAs, which sounds crazy to folks like you and me, but keep in mind that he is still set to make $12.25 million this season. Missing OTAs was no big deal.
“Normally what coaches do is they teach the defense once during OTAs and then once you come back to camp after a six-week break, you re-teach it and start over from the beginning,” McFarland said. “That’s what the great coaches do and I think Brentson Buckner will do that. I don’t think JPP will be at a disadvantage at all. As long as he shows up in shape, and he knows how hot it’s going to be because he went to USF, I think he’ll be fine.
“People like to make a big deal about people missing voluntary OTAs – (Tom) Brady, (Rob) Gronkowski – when guys miss, I don’t look at it like a big thing at all. Football is played with shoulder pads and a helmet on. Anything else is just for fun, conditioning and camaraderie. There really just isn’t much you can do other than timing, conditioning and classroom stuff without shoulder pads and helmets.”
When Pierre-Paul shows up for every day of training camp this year excited to be a Buccaneer, all of that worrying and hand-wringing over the two-time Pro Bowler’s absence this spring will be for nothing.