EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Even as his hand was being shredded by fireworks, Jason Pierre-Paul says he wasn't frightened. And he never doubted his return to football.
''I wasn't worried at all,'' the Giants star defensive end said. ''I wasn't in shock or nothing. I looked at my hand, and my fiance was going crazy. But I kept calm.''
The July 4 fireworks accident cost him his right index finger. In his first comments since the mishap, Pierre-Paul on Friday left unanswered many questions, but he recalled his time in a Florida hospital with a mangled hand and burns covering his arm.
He said he remained confident even as doctors decided to amputate, leaving him with a large gap between his middle finger and a thumb that remains swollen and bent inward from multiple fractures and a partial amputation.
''When I was in the hospital, I saw a kid die,'' Pierre-Paul said. ''I feel very fortunate I'm alive. There were probably 12 people in the hospital, and my hand was the best one. What happened to my hand was bad, but I've seen worse.''
Pierre-Paul was no novice at fireworks. Still, he learned a lesson.
''They're very dangerous,'' he said. ''You shouldn't do it. This is seven years I did it, and it went off. There's a lot of things I can't say right now. I've got pictures and everything. But when I want to let it out, I will. This is not the right time.''
Pierre-Paul signed an incentive-driven, $8.7 million contract Tuesday and took part in contact work the next day. He says he will not attend Sunday's game in New Orleans because he does not want to distract his teammates.
The elite pass rusher did not set a timetable for his return to games. But coach Tom Coughlin left open the possibility he could return before the Week 11 bye, given his unexpected progress of the past week. Initial estimates had him returning after the bye.
''We'll advance him next week and we'll see where we are, and that's all we can say,'' Coughlin said. ''Whatever we've asked him to do, he's done with flying colors. I do want to get him out there soon. That's the whole idea. But I want him ready when he goes out there. I want him for the rest of the year.''
Once Pierre-Paul does get out there, he will play with a special glove, but with little other protection.
The 6-foot-5, 268-pounder says he expects to have no trouble learning new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system, having studied the playbook during his nearly five months of inactivity. He expects to pick up right up from where he was at the end of last year, when he made 9 1/2 of his team-high 12 1/2 sacks over the last six games.
The Giants defense has only nine sacks through seven games, and is a major reason behind its No. 30 league ranking against the pass.
NOTES: CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), WR Victor Cruz (calf), DE Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring) and LB J.T. Thomas (ankle) were declared out of Sunday's game in New Orleans. LB Jon Beason (ankle) did not practice the entire week but was listed as questionable. WR Odell Beckham (hamstring), G Geoff Schwartz (ankle), and LB Uani `Unga (neck) are probable. ... Coughlin said Beckham's full week of practice went well, and his communication with quarterback Eli Manning should be much improved. ''When Odell practices, he practices,'' Coughlin said. ''His speed and maneuverability makes the quarterback sharper. Whenever people practice at the right speed, they are preparing themselves for the game, and I think that's what happened this week.''