It looks like Jason Pierre-Paul could see an NFL field this year after all.
Days after it was reported that the Buccaneers defensive end was facing a potentially season-ending surgery after fracturing his neck in a late-night car crash, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Pierre-Paul had opted with a non-surgical route to treat the injury.
After receiving several opinions on his fractured vertebra, #Bucs pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul is proceeding with the non-surgical option, sources say. As coach Bruce Arians said publicly, the hope is he plays during the 2019 season. But no surgery is planned at this point.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 10, 2019
The choice should speed up Pierre-Paul’s return to the Buccaneers. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports that three independent doctors concluded the injury would heal by itself.
With surgery off the table, the plan is to recheck #Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul's fractured vertebra at the 4-month mark, source said. The good news: Three independent doctors concurred it'll heal on its own. Expected timeline is 5-6 months, if not sooner.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 10, 2019
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians alluded to the neck injury being “one of those five- or six-month things” as a best-case scenario while talking with reporters earlier on Friday, which would set up for a return in September or October.
Video: Bucs coach Bruce Arians says team’s checking on Jason Pierre-Paul neck injury is still ongoing, said he has “fingers crossed” and is praying for best news possible. pic.twitter.com/8hMCAB9vBu
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 10, 2019
"No, I think that’s still ongoing and like [Bucs GM Jason Licht] said,” Arians said when asked for an update. “We’ve got our fingers crossed and praying for him. It’s very unfortunate. And all we can do is pray and hope for the best and hope it’s one of those five- or six-month things and go from there.''
What happened in Jason Pierre-Paul’s car crash?
Per the Tampa Bay Times, Pierre Paul’s crash occurred around 2:38 a.m. on May 2 when he he lost control of his Ferrari in wet conditions and hit a concrete barrier on the Interstate 95 median near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Pierre-Paul reportedly told 911 dispatchers that he was not injured in the incident and only needed help removing his car. The 30-year-old and his passenger were still taken to Broward Health Medical Center.
The police report said Pierre-Paul’s condition was “apparently normal” at the time of the crash. That would be contradicted by a later medical evaluation, leading to Pierre-Paul’s current situation.
How much do the Bucs need Pierre-Paul?
For the price of a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick swap in a trade with the New York Giants last offseason, the Bucs received a team-leading 12.5 sacks from Pierre-Paul. That was six more sacks than No. 2 Carl Nassib’s 6.5.
The veteran pass rusher was expected to occupy a similar role this year, but those plans could be changed even if he returns in the middle of the season.
Per the Tampa Bay Times, Arians said the Buccaneers had not begun making contingency plans for Pierre-Paul.
"I don’t know what the answer is yet, if he’s going to play, if he’s not going to play,'' Arians said. "We’ll just practice with the guys we have. It’s just like anybody else getting hurt, on the field or off the field. You march on.''
With the bulk of the NFL’s top free-agent pass rushers already off the board, the most recent being Ziggy Ansah, finding a replacement of Pierre-Paul’s caliber would be a difficult proposition.
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