Tom Coughlin said the Giants are rooting for Jason Pierre-Paul to make his comeback. On Thursday, they were quite literal.
The defensive end made a major leap in his progress in just his second day with the team, going from stretching and drills on the side with trainers to actual football reps with the rest of the squad. Pierre-Paul, who signed his one-year contract on Tuesday night, looked so good and is progressing so quickly that it may be possible he takes the field next week against the Buccaneers.
"He moved well and I think he proved to the medical people that he's in good shape," Coughlin said before the practice. "That's not to include all the back and forth, sideways stuff. He's going to have to work his way through some of that, too. But he's in excellent condition."
Pierre-Paul drew hoots and yells from his fellow defensive linemen as he completed mundane drills and tasks that they themselves had done - largely without applause - since the start of the season. He showed no sign of being limited in any capacity, not even with his damaged right hand that remained in the heavy white glove he wore on Wednesday.
He completed drills in which he grabbed onto a blocker and shed him to attack a ball-carrier, even tearing the jersey of blocker Robert Ayers at one point. He looked spry coming around the edge for a sack on a tackling dummy and then scooping up a fumble. And he drew the loudest cheers from teammates when he went through a maze of blocking bags, swinging left and right hands to push them away, before cutting and tackling one last bag.
The only area Pierre-Paul seemed to be hindered in was when he tried to snap the right side of his chinstrap to his helmet with his left hand. It took him a few tries to get that just right.
That Pierre-Paul plays a position where he could conceivably be on the field for a limited number of snaps - say 10-15 pass-rushes - opens the possibility of a return to game action even more swiftly than originally anticipated. Few thought he would be on the practice field as quickly as he has made it there.
Perhaps the game field is closer than they thought as well.