Jason Pierre-Paul played an integral role in the New York Giants' last Super Bowl championship, establishing himself as one of the top pass rushers in the franchise's storied history. Those memories with the Giants are long gone, as New York traded Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- where he has established himself as one of the game's best sack artists.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman told Pierre-Paul he had "an offer he couldn't refuse," but the Buccaneers defensive end has his sights set on wrecking havoc on the team that drafted him.
"I'm going to Monday Night Football and I'm going to destroy the Giants," Pierre-Paul said Friday. "This game definitely means something special to me. First game [as a Buccaneer against the Giants] I can recall, I got hurt in the Saints game [before it]. We played them for the season opener [and I] got hurt. Played the Giants [again later but I] was hurt with two MCLs. Then, the second game [against the Giants] they played the second season, I wasn't there. I broke my neck.
"I finally get to play them this year, I'm fully healed and I'm ready to go. I'm trying to see what I can do. I already know what I'm going to do, but I want to see what I can do."
Pierre-Paul is certainly playing at a high level heading into Monday's matchup. He's tied for fifth in the NFL with 5.5 sacks and has recorded sacks in five of the first seven weeks of the year. Pierre-Paul has 26.5 sacks since joining the Buccaneers in 2018, which ranks ninth in the NFL during that span.
The Buccaneers defense is one of the best in the league thanks to the contributions of Pierre-Paul. Tampa Bay has allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league and ranks in the top three in total yards allowed. The Buccaneers also allowed the fewest first downs in the league.
"We know it's a Super Bowl team, but at the end of the day, it's the work you put in," Pierre-Paul said. "Any team can be a Super Bowl team, but when you look at the Bucs, the pieces that we have and the way it connects, people obviously think that we're going to go to the Super Bowl. But, we've got to put in the work. We understand that hard work and that consistency of each week – week-to-week – trying to come out with a win. Each team in the NFL is hard. No team is easy."
Pierre-Paul is in his 11th season and his NFL career has been quite the journey. Along with suffering a herniated disc in his back that jeopardized his career, Pierre-Paul had his right index finger amputated after a fireworks incident. Since that incident five years ago, the 31-year-old Pierre-Paul's 42 sacks are tied for 12th-most in the league.
"I feel like when I'm on the football field, I'm here [and] I've made it. I'm blessed," Pierre-Paul said. "I told myself that if I ever were to get on the football field again, I wouldn't complain about the small things like somebody stepping on my feet [or] me missing a tackle. I'm just going to go out and play the game [and] have fun like a little kid.
"Twice it could've been taken away from me, but it's a special gift and God gave it to me. To be honest, when I'm ready to leave this game, I'm going to leave this game."