Jason Pierre-Paul already knows what he'll be thinking when he walks onto an NFL field for the first time in 2015 -- quite possibly this Sunday in Tampa.
"It's going to be crazy,'' he said Wednesday. "They've been waiting on me. I'm here, I've arrived. They say I can't, but I did. It's on me.''
The defensive end with the mangled right hand continued his impressive trajectory toward a return that is coming sooner than most anticipated when he finally was cleared by the team's medical staff and signed a one-year contract nine days ago. He was taking reps Wednesday with both the scout team, as he did last week, and the regular defense. That's a signal that the Giants are including him in their game plan for the Bucs.
"It feels great being out there,'' he said. "I was out there last week, but it felt even better this week, actually getting into a rotation, knowing the plays, and executing my plays.''
Tom Coughlin said he is not surprised by Pierre-Paul's progress.
"I don't care about anybody else, it's the individual,'' Coughlin said. "He's in outstanding physical condition. We knew that. We tried that right away . . . We're feeling good about accelerating him along. There's nothing unusual about a guy who is in his position and is in the condition that he's in and prepares himself to play. That's what he's done.''
It's a combination of the hand injury plus the conditioning that has to be measured in judging JPP, Coughlin said. The conditioning can be improved over time. The hand injury? It won't get better, although the techniques that Pierre-Paul can use to compensate for it certainly will evolve.
"All that has been told to me, all the preparation has gone on to make sure that he has a glove that helps him in that regard,'' Coughlin said.
Pierre-Paul said he is getting used to taking his three-point stance with his left hand on the ground, but he will be able to play from either side of the line.
The timing of Pierre-Paul's imminent return could not be better for the Giants, coming off one of their worst defensive performances in franchise history, a 52-49 loss to the Saints. Coughlin delivered a curt "No'' when asked if the accelerated path for Pierre-Paul was related to those problems.
"It has to do with him, whether he's ready or not,'' Coughlin said. "If he's ready, we'll play him. If he's not ready, then we'll take more time.''
The Giants certainly hope he is ready. And those who have lined up with and against him in the past week believe he is.
"I'm sending him out there,'' guard Justin Pugh said when asked what he would do if he were the coach. "I wouldn't want to be playing left tackle against Jason Pierre-Paul for the rest of the year. I think he's got something to prove, and when he does he's one of the best.''
Added fellow defensive end Robert Ayers Jr.: "He's a hell of a player. It'll be fun to see him overcome what he's been through.''
If Pierre-Paul is to play, the Giants need to add him to the active roster by 4 p.m. Saturday. That's when we'll have the clearest picture of his availability this week.
The Bucs are bracing for Pierre-Paul's return. Coach Lovie Smith said he assumes any player who practices during the week will play, and if Pierre-Paul is on the field, they have a plan to face him.
That plan most likely will include an early test to see just what Pierre-Paul will be able to deliver. To which Pierre-Paul responded: "Let 'em come.''
"I'm going to do what I do best, and I know how to play football,'' he said. "They can come at me. Play the run, play the ball, I'll be OK . . . Nothing's changed. If I couldn't do it, I wouldn't be here right now.''