Pierre-Paul is a Pro Bowler once again

by Gary Shelton on December 23, 2020

in general

Pierre-Paulhas overcome injuries./jEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

He was done. With his right hand, he had blown up his career, and all that remained of both was a bloody mess.

But Jason-Pierre Paul wasn't done.

He was finished. He had a car wreck, and he had fractured his neck. This time, the odds were too great, weren't they?

And yet, here he stands, a Pro Bowler once again. A player who matters. A leader.

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That's Pierre-Paul, the unstoppable defensive end for the Tampa Bay Bucs, the payer who has never faced an injury he cannot overcome, the player who was cast aside by his first team, the player who has returned to stardom with his second.

Give credit to Pierre-Paul for this much. He doesn't believe in obstacles. For a man whose career involves getting past the largest men in pro football, Pierre-Paul keeps coming back.

This week, when Pierre-Paul was the only Tampa Bay player named to the Pro Bowl, it was another step in his incredible journey. It was the first time Pierre-Paul has made the Pro Bowl. He had 12 1/2 sacks in 2014, but he didn't make. He had 12 1/2 in 2018. but he didn't make it.

This year, with nine (so far), he made it.

“It’s been a long road, but the reality is it just made it more fun for me," Pierre-Paul said. "The challenges weren’t really challenging – it’s just the fact that you have to have a mental state of mind that you can do whatever you put your mind to. That’s what I did. Still, now I’m catching picks, I’m in the 3-4 defense, dropping, rushing the passer like I never did before, playing the run great – I’m just doing everything I can [and] I’m just having fun with the game. That’s basically what I’m doing.”

Pierre-Paul talked about the injuries he has overcome.

“It’s a blessing from God," he said. "The reality is, I’ve still got more work to do. I’m not finished yet. My main goal was to get in the playoffs and run the table to get to the Super Bowl. I feel like with the team we’ve got, we can do that. Thanks to the Pro Bowl, but my main goal is to get to the Super Bowl this year. Once I get there, then I’ll be able to tell the whole story. Right now, isn’t the time to tell the story – it’s a long story to tell. For everybody that’s going through something right now out there, just know that everything is possible. Just believe in yourself.”

Pierre-Paul said he also believes in his team.

“I think the most [important] thing that we have to get right is starting fast on the defensive part of the ball," Pierre-Paul said. "As a matter of fact, the whole team. Basically, we have to start fast. We’ve been starting slow for the past couple of weeks and then last week – as you can tell – we started slow and had everybody worrying. I feel like as long as we can start fast as a group, and we don’t have to wait to push it and step on the pedal, we’ll be fine. I just think being football players we get self-awareness that we’re slacking a little bit. I just feel like we [need to] come out and go hard from the very first beginning to the last. Even myself.”

Since being acquired by Tampa Bay via trade in 2018, Pierre-Paul ranks tied for eighth in the NFL with 30.5 sacks. During that span, he leads the team in sacks and ranks second in quarterback hits (48), tackles for loss (31), forced fumbles (seven) and strip sacks (seven).

On Saturday, Pierre-Paul and his teammates take aim at Detroit's Matt Stafford, one of the few standouts in an otherwise lost year for the Lions.

“He’s one of my all-time favorite guys," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "He’s tough as nails. Like I said the other day, he’s one of the few quarterbacks I like going out and watching warm up. Just watching him throw because he’s so special. I’ve always felt like he was one of the top four or five guys in this league for a long time. Like I said, he’s tough as nails and his guys know it. They know he’s going to suck it up for them.”

The Bucs play the Lions Saturday at 1 p.m

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