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?

Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul and DL coach Brentson Buckner - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul and DL coach Brentson Buckner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“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.

Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul and DT Gerald McCoy - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul and DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“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.”

Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

23 COMMENTS

  1. Jesus effing christ Scott, sure I will be pissed, frustrated, and disappointed if the Bucs are bad again.

    But Im not gonna just stop being a fan. good lord

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    • Other than that, really good column Scott, but still, regime change, more losing, none of that is gonna have me switching teams and I would be disappointed in any Bucs “fan” who would.

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  2. Been with the Bucs since the get-go . Will always root for them and proud they are my team regardless of when’s and losses. Go Bucs!

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  3. Good What If’s here Scott. I’m just not gonna get my hopes up high this yr. Not with that Thud this past season. I got us optimistically goin 8-8. People forget,,we’re not the only team thats made improvements. I will say though,,we go as far as Jameis and the Defense takes us. Last yr, we had 5 very winnable games but absolutely zero Defense. Tough Schedule? Sure. But 31 other teams got tough ones as well. Every game is tough. I don’t put a lot of faith in preseason at all. I’ve seem teams win all those games and come out..Flat during the regular season. I want to see If Jameis is improving. Its time for him to take a few leaps if we are to be successful.

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  4. Injuries and turnovers….the two great forces of fortune in the NFL….get them on our side and playoffs is completely realistic.

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    • Agree

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  5. I just can’t wait to get the bad taste of last year out of my mouth.. I wish the season was starting Sunday.

    Go Bucs!!!

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  6. And YES T. Mayberry in the ring of honor.

    Go Bucs!!!

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  7. “How good are the 2018 Bucs?”

    That was an awful lot of words just to say, “I have no idea.”

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    • Totally agree!

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  8. Tony Mayberry for the Ring of Honor? Are you sh**ing me? No, no, no, NO. Are Bucs fans’ standards so LOW? OK, the guy was a good center. He played better than the 108th pick used to draft him, but he was never great, he was just better than his draft position. He earned his pay, and did a good job. But, that same description could apply to a LOT of TB players.

    You want to know what Mayberry’s most memorable play is? The snap he sailed over Shaun King’s head in the 1999 NFC Championship. In case anybody forgot, that was a game the Bucs lost 11-6. Take away the 2-point safety that resulted from Mayberry’s bad snap, and the Bucs are suddenly within 3 points of the Rams at the end of that game, instead of 5. So, a FG could have tied it, otherwise. Bucs were in a position to kick a FG and very possibly tie to force overtime with a FG. But, Mayberry’s huge mistake put that out of reach, and the Bert Emmanuel non-catch (which later resulted in the Bert Emmanuel Rule) pretty much ended the Bucs’ chances.

    You younger fans don’t want to give the older guys their due. LB David Lewis deserves a spot in the ROH before Mayberry does. He played back when the NFL didn’t bother to keep defensive stats, so he is forgotten already. The guy was a major reason for the team winning the last two games of 1977 (the first wins in TB history), and continued to be a force on the Bucs defense until 1982. The NFL didn’t keep tabs on tackles or sacks back then, but Lewis had 10 INTs for the Bucs between ’77 and ’81. Mayberry might have had 3 Pro Bowl selections to Lewis one, but Pro Bowl selections are a joke, anyway. I’d give Lewis a ROH nomination before Mayberry, any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

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    • Completely agree about David Lewis over Mayberry for the Ring of Honor. Lewis was there from just about the very beginning of this franchise, combined with Batman Wood & Cecil Johnson gave us one of the best line backing crews in the league at the time. The youngsters don’t realize that while our offense was the leagues worst, our defense was one of the best, being rated #1 in 1979 only 2 seasons after starting in the league at 0-26 in our first 26 games ever played. That says a lot, and people need to take notice of the defensive players we had back then. It shouldn’t be just us graybeards that realize this!

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  9. I moved here in 77, everyone was a Miami fan, I began my love affair with the Bucs thinking, how long can they be bad? I’m not going anywhere. I like the tough start to the season, and think we’re catching a break with our first two games. The Saints will be without their back, and I believe after an emotional home opener the Eagles won’t fly high in the Tampa heat, and have a let down. If we can start the season 2-0 we’re on our way. At any rate we’ll know who we are first five weeks.

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  10. Jameis has to improve and be a more accurate passer for the Buc’s to be improve and this needs to be from the first snap of the game. To many times he is high and of the mark with his throws during the early stages of the games.

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    • In the 11 games he played start to finish Jameis had a 64.4 comp %. Last time I checked that’s a very good number. Even more impressive considering he’s at the top of the league in air yards per attempt. So if you think that’s the issue on this team, you need to rewatch last season game by game again

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  11. I hate the idea of having to “game plan around turnovers” how about Jameis Winston either improves his turnover ratio or gets the fuck out. This isn’t college anymore and we can’t gameplan around his turnovers” and have a realistic chance of ever getting into the playoffs, ever winning this division, or winning a Super Bowl eventually with this type of tolerance for mediocrity

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    • Well when you have a historically bad defense that has you playing from behind, 55 out of 60 minutes, a bottom 5 running game, a terrible kicker, and below average pass protection, interceptions are going to happen. Unless you expect Jameis to be Jesus. Well in that case, yeah, he’s not gonna fullfill your ridiculous expectations. It’s a team sport pal. Jameis could have had 5 int’s last year instead of 11, and the Bucs are still a below .500 non playoff team. That’s not opinion, that’s a fact

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  12. Tell that to the Packers Charlie, who did the same thing with Brett Farve. And give the language a rest.
    I’m more concerned about his fumbles than his INT’s.
    It could be worse though. We could have Marcus Mariotta who had more INT’s than TD passes last year. If you had in his lost fumbles the number gets even worse.
    This all happened with a solid running game and a good defense. Two things Winston didn’t have last year which no doubt forced him to make some throws he probably wouldn’t have if the other team wasn’t scoring at will.
    And if you think Winston is satisfied with being mediocre, then you haven’t read much about how much he works on improving his game during the offseason.
    Winston has improved his accuracy every year, despite preferring to throw the ball down the field instead of to the side to his running backs which he no doubt should do a little bit more often.
    Hopefully he will look at his last five games he played to see how much that helped him. I’m betting he does.

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    • Totally agree DrD. I too am more concerned with the frequent fumbles. As you noted, give him a semblance of a running game, even a mediocre defense and average kicker and perhaps the youngster might not think it’s all on him.

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    • Totally agree dnd

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  13. I guess the free agent center didn’t make enough of an impression to call him by his real name. Maybe once they get into pads and he’s hitting people you’ll call him Ryan instead of Sean.

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  14. Agree on Winston. If we actually have a decent kicker, run game, and defense this year and he still forces it a lot then I’ll start to worry. Until then I’m not concerned. I think any young qb would think it’s all on him with the garbage we have had around him.

    As far as predicting how good I stopped getting too optimistic because it’s been a long damn time and too many disappointments.

    That said considering the schedule and all the rookies, and other unknowns with so many changes and chemistry etc, to me they are an 8-8 team plus or minus a couple games. Some key injuries and 6-10 very possible. They stay healthy, catch few breaks, rookies like Davis and Vea , are good year one. If they O line and center are any good, they stay healthy, I could see maybe 10-6. Don’t see any better than that with the all things considered.

    Go Bucs!

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  15. Like the podcast but can we get Cook to stop with the awful and constant jokes. Makes it hard to listen to

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