NFL: Giants' top draft pick battles back problem in minicamp
By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Roughly 10 minutes into the second day of a rookie and free agent minicamp with the New York Giants, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul looked spent.
That's putting it politely, too.
Pierre-Paul had all the appearances of sucking wind. His hands were clasped above his head. His No. 90 blue jersey was drenched with sweat and it was fairly obvious the No. 15 pick overall in the recent NFL draft was having a problem on a steamy Saturday morning.
A minute or two later, the first-round draft pick from South Florida was on all fours on the grass with trainers huddling over him on a steamy morning.
While it looked like dehydration, it wasn't. Spray from an aerosol can was soon applied to Pierre-Paul's back along with a what seemed to be a white 5x7 pad, and all the while, Pierre-Paul was telling his coaches that he wasn't out of shape.
Instead, it was his annual back problem. It happens every time he gets away from football and then starts playing again.
"My back just started hurting," Pierre-Paul said after eating lunch. "It is a conditioning thing. It did that at South Florida, too, where I got used to it. It always does the same thing around this time. I don't know for what reason."
Pierre-Paul described the problem as a pinch in his lower back, adding it hurt most when he got into a three-point stance on the line. As soon as he stood up, the pain went away.
The back did not spasm, he said, and it usually takes between four days and a week for his body to adjust to playing football again. Then the pain subsides.
Although Pierre-Paul associated the back problem with conditioning, he said he has nothing to do with his stamina.
"I'm not out of shape," he said. "I'm not out of shape. I feel like I'm in good shape right now. The fact that I was out there bending down and stuff, it wasn't that I was out of shape. I kept on telling coach that. I'm not out of shape now. I feel like I'm in great shape. It's just my back was just killing me."
Pierre-Paul said he trained in Miami and Tampa, Fla., before the draft and intends to go back to Tampa after the minicamp ends on Saturday. He insists he will be ready for next month's minicamp and the start of the regular training camp in late July.
"I know my body," Pierre-Paul said. "I see a lot of guys running and tiring. It wasn't that. It was my lower back that was hurting."
Pierre-Paul is going to have to work to get playing time under new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Defensive ends Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Dave Tollefson are all returning with tackles Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, Jay Alford and Rocky Bernard.
Fewell also disclosed Friday that he isn't a big fan of rotating his linemen so a fresh body is on the field.
"I like for our defensive linemen to play until they fall out," Fewell said. "So, if they are in there playing and if they give me 100 percent effort, and can still give me 100 percent effort on first, second, and third downs, I have no problem with that. If they need a blow, we'll get them out. I like our best players to be on the field at all times."
Fewell isn't worried that the policy might leave some players unhappy.
"If they want to start, hey, prove it," Fewell said. "We have a lot of football and a lot of practice, let's just prove it and that will take care of itself."