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Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Analysis: JPP has back surgery

By Ohm Youngmisuk

Jason Pierre-Paul
The Giants won't rush Jason Pierre-Paul (back surgery) in training camp.
Jason Pierre-Paul underwent back surgery Tuesday morning in Los Angeles.

The defensive end underwent a microdiscectomy to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. Dr. Robert Watkins performed the procedure at Marina Del Rey Hospital in California. The team expects Pierre-Paul's recovery and rehabilitation to be approximately 12 weeks.

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported that doctors believe Pierre-Paul should be 100 percent for this coming season and will be ready for the season opener on Sept. 8.

“My back has been bothering me for a while, and even last season I played through some back issues,” Pierre-Paul said in a statement. “The treatment I’ve been doing has helped manage the issue, but this procedure is going to get me fully healthy and there should be no more pain. I’m going to do everything the doctors tell me to do during my rehab so I can be back playing the game I love at a high level as quickly as possible.”

Pierre-Paul had been experiencing lower back pain "the past couple months" according to Ronnie Barnes, senior vice president of medical services for the Giants.

"He has managed the discomfort with treatment and core strengthening exercises," Barnes said. "Last week, he was examined by Drs. Russell Warren and Frank Cammisa at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Both felt this procedure was the most prudent course of action. Dr. Watkins, after examining Jason yesterday, agreed. We expect a full and complete recovery."

Nevertheless, anytime “surgery” and “back” are mentioned in the same sentence involving your star defensive end, it gives you serious pause. Outside of Eli Manning, Pierre-Paul is arguably the next player the Giants can least afford to lose. They have other defensive ends. But JPP is that rare pass-rusher who can dominate a game on his own when playing at his best -- just ask Dallas -- and he's the team's future.

Pierre-Paul has a history of back issues from his college days and labored through back pain in his rookie camp in 2010. His back issues flare up from time to time. Osi Umenyiora started a game against Washington last year for Pierre-Paul, who came off the bench in that game due to back pain.

When healthy, Pierre-Paul can dominate, as he did in 2011 when he had 16.5 sacks and earned a Pro Bowl selection. But last season, JPP struggled to get 6.5 sacks. His total tackles also dipped from 86 in 2011 to 66. GM Jerry Reese said Pierre-Paul needs to learn how to deal with double-teams, and he wants his young star to sit down with Michael Strahan to learn from the ex-Giant's vast experience.

A source told Schefter that Pierre-Paul played with the back injury last season and received multiple epidural injections. That might explain the drastic dip in his numbers.

Head coach Tom Coughlin even wondered whether Pierre-Paul played a little too heavy last season.

“I was always in great shape," Pierre-Paul said in April. "I'm still the same size this year. People say I look slimmer but I'm the same weight.

"I was not big last year," he added. "I was 273 and I'm 274 now. If they want me to lose weight, I can do it that fast."

What's next: If all goes well, Pierre-Paul could be back midway through the final week of August, giving him time to get ready for the Sept. 8 opener against Dallas.

It’s a good bet the Giants will take it slow in training camp, as they should, with their future franchise player.

Mathias Kiwanuka, who has played a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role, is expected to move to defensive end full time in Pierre-Paul’s absence, joining Justin Tuck on the first team .

The Giants will find out quickly what they have in some unproven pass-rushers. Adrian Tracy, third-round pick Damontre Moore, Adewale Ojomo and Justin Trattou will show what they can do, beginning with veteran’s minicamp next week.

Tracy figures to move up to the third defensive end spot that belonged to Umenyiora. Remember, Tracy was nicknamed "Yosi" -- as in young Osi -- by the other pass-rushers. But Moore, Ojomo and Trattou could make it a competition with an impressive summer.

Ojomo turned heads during last year’s training camp and he’ll have even more chances to earn playing time. The 6-5, 255-pound Moore had 26.5 sacks in three seasons at Texas A&M, including 12.5 sacks this past season. But he is only 20 and needs to get bigger, according to Coughlin.

The Giants might sign a veteran defensive end for insurance -- old friend Dave Tollefson could be an option.