EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin racked his brain here Saturday morning before the start of the Giants’ second full day of training camp, trying to come up with any precedent or apt comparison to the puzzling and mysterious saga that his team is involved in with its missing star pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who badly damaged his right hand in a July 4 fireworks accident in Florida. But New York’s veteran head coach just shook his head and came up empty.
Pierre-Paul remains virtually incommunicado with the Giants organization nearly a month after the accident reportedly cost him the amputation of his right index finger, a fractured right thumb and severe burns on his hand. Coughlin acknowledged he has seen the first pictures to surface of Pierre-Paul, which were published by the New York Daily News on Friday, but little detail can be discerned from the sight of the 26-year-old with a heavy bandaged right hand that resembles a club, and his right arm in a sling. Except that football is clearly not in his immediate future.
“I did see those, but forget about all that stuff (the lack of communication), it’s the tragedy of it,” Coughlin told SI.com before the Giants’ afternoon practice at their team facility. “I don’t think we’ve had anything quite this tragic. You’re torn between that tragedy and your feelings for the young man, and your hope that somehow, some way his health is going to fully return. You’re torn between all of that.
“He was hurt, and it’s really a traumatic injury. You can imagine all the things that were going on in his mind and with his family. Because everyone (in his family) is so dependent upon this guy, and that’s just a reflection of the tragedy.”
Pierre-Paul has given the Giants precious little information about his injuries and absolutely no indication of when he might return to the team, to either continue the next stage of his recovery or begin plotting a return to the field. And while Coughlin is trying to not assume the worst possible scenario in regards to his injured franchise-tagged defensive end’s career prospects, he has little to base any assumption on except Pierre-Paul’s absence.
“The fact he’s not here is not good, let’s put it that way,” Coughlin said. “We sort of braced ourselves, I’m not going to say for the worst, I’m just going to say we’ve braced ourselves for a terrible accident. I would suppose (his recovery will be long), but again, the extent of the injury is what will dictate that, and I don’t know enough about that.”
The Giants and Coughlin have been at something of a loss in how to overcome what they see as the bad advice Pierre-Paul is getting, presumably from his agent or someone else in his inner circle. New York sent two club representatives to Miami to visit Pierre Paul in the hospital—senior vice president of medical services Ronnie Barnes and special assistant Jessie Armstead—and they were both denied access to the player the Giants have offered a one-year $14-million-plus franchise tender for 2015. Coughlin found that decision an ominous one.
“We have said all along our concern is for the best interests of the young man first,” Coughlin said. “So we sent two people that are very much involved in his livelihood and they were shut out. Well that tells me things are not very good in the first place. And secondly, we feel like we’re in a pretty good spot, where we have some of the finest doctors and hospitals in the world. So can we help the guy?
“And I’m not saying anything disparagingly about any of the treatment he’s getting in Florida, but you’d like to work hand in hand with a player, which is usually the way it works with a club. You’d like to know what you’re up against and therefore to be able to advise -- and he’s going to make the final call -- but we certainly with our people who are closest to him, we would have an opportunity to share an opinion or two. To not be able to even do that, that’s kind of puzzling.”
As the Giants return to work and training camp begins to pick up steam this weekend, the perplexing case of Pierre-Paul, and where it might be headed, continues to loom over this just-begun season in New York.